AT&T will be closing corporate stores as well

In what some are predicting is just the tip of the iceberg for cell phone stores, AT&T confirmed that it will be closing some AT&T stores, but it’s not all the stores that are currently unopened.

The company temporarily shut a number of stores in March due to the pandemic. The company declined to comment on the number of stores it’s permanently closing. It previously acknowledged it's closing an unspecified number of Cricket Wireless prepaid branded stores.

Before it reopens more of its corporate stores, it’s considering “numerous health and safety factors, including guidance from government and medical authorities,” said spokesman Jim Kimberly. “We are proceeding with appropriate caution to protect our employees and customers.”

The reasoning behind the closures is similar to that for Cricket. With more customers shopping online, AT&T is closing some retail stores to reflect that practice, and while the plans aren’t new, they have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When AT&T started closing some corporate-owned stores in mid-March, it encouraged customers to first go online to handle things like bill payments, device upgrades, activations and service requests. During the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call, executives said that they could do virtually everything online; it’s a matter of what the consumer wants to do.  

According to Kimberly, most of the employees who are affected by the corporate store closures will receive a guaranteed offer to another position with the company. Of those, only those who don’t qualify, volunteer to leave or decline a job offer will leave the company and receive severance pay.

Part of a wave

Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner predicts every carrier will close hundreds of stores – both corporate and dealer owned, adding up to thousand(s) in aggregate. COVID-19 is driving marginal stores into closure due to lower foot traffic and social distancing.

In late April, multiple sources reported that T-Mobile was closing more Metro by T-Mobile prepaid stores. T-Mobile did not provide a number of stores set for closure but said it was “optimizing” its retail footprint “as a normal course of business,” acknowledging that it notified some dealer stores that it was transitioning them to T-Mobile stores and closing a “small number” of redundant locations.

While carriers in general closed a high percentage of their corporate-owned stores during the pandemic, a lot of the dealer-owned and operated shops stayed open, sometimes with shorter hours and with social distancing and more frequent cleaning practices in place.