T-Mobile retail footprint grows from 3,600 to 5,300 stores—and isn’t stopping there

One important but potentially underappreciated element in T-Mobile’s drive during the past several years is the company’s retail store expansion. Indeed, during the past two and a half years, T-Mobile has grown its retail footprint from 3,600 stores to 5,300 stores—pushing the company from last place to second place (behind Verizon) among the nation’s largest wireless network operators.

And T-Mobile isn’t finished. Although the company hasn’t provided any specific guidance on its retail store expansion plans for this year, the company said it will mostly focus on opening stores in new markets where it’s deploying its newly obtained 700 MHz and 600 MHz spectrum.

“It's focused on greenfield,” CEO John Legere said earlier this year of T-Mobile’s 2018 retail plans, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the company’s fourth quarter earnings conference call. “It's focused on places where the network's deployed where there is no competition, that sad, little town that just has Verizon or maybe Verizon and AT&T, and they hate them both. And when we open a door in those towns, I mean, the mayor comes out, there's marching bands and people just march right into our store and move over to us. So that's the—that's kind of where we are.”

Analysts agree that T-Mobile’s retail expansion efforts during the past few years have been impressive.

“The new store openings have dramatically improved T-Mobile’s position relative to its peers,” wrote the analysts at MoffettNathanson in a recent report on the carrier. “At the end of 2015, T-Mobile had the fewest doors of any of the Big Four (not surprising so, given its much more limited footprint). Today, the company has already passed AT&T.”

And that momentum likely will continue. As noted by the analysts at Barclays in a recent research note, T-Mobile recently indicated that its ongoing network and retail expansion would add between 30 and 40 million POPs on top of the operator’s existing 230 million addressable POPs. Specifically, the firm noted that T-Mobile expects to own a store within 10-15 miles of those 30-40 million new POPs.

“Should the company be able to replicate its share of marketable POPs within this group, it suggests a potential incremental opportunity of growing its base by 7.5 million to 10.0 million subscribers,” the Barclays analysts wrote.

The analysts with Wall Street research firm Macquarie Research largely agreed with those findings. In a new report on T-Mobile, the firm said that most of T-Mobile’s stores in 2018 will be built in the “greenfield” markets where T-Mobile previously didn’t offer service—creating a significant opportunity. “Although we expect the company will add fewer stores than the ~1.5k in ’17, we’re confident in its ability to gain share in markets dominated by AT&T/Verizon,” the Macquarie analysts wrote. “Over time, it looks poised to achieve the ~20% share it has in urban markets.”

Jon Freier is in charge of T-Mobile’s retail operations and has been working to cultivate an outspoken voice promoting the company’s activities: