Verizon opens 100s of Total by Verizon stores — Industry Voices: Moore

Jeff Moore Industry Voices

The 2023 edition of the All Wireless & Prepaid Expo just wrapped up at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. This is the key event for the U.S. prepaid wireless industry, and the 2023 event smashed previous records. There were nearly 4,000 registered attendees in 2023, up from 3,500 in 2022. The show floor was sold out, and next year will be far larger. I’m the Conference Director of the Expo, which basically means that I spent the Expo on a stage, introducing leaders of the prepaid industry.

There were two top stories at the All Wireless & Prepaid Expo. The number two story was the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), but I’ll write about that later. The number one story was clearly the rise of Total by Verizon.

I felt like the Expo was the debutante ball for Total by Verizon. A debutante ball is a formal party that celebrates the progression of a girl to womanhood, and I think Total by Verizon is exactly at that stage now.

The top moment came during the keynote address by Lee Mrazek, the vice president for the Indirect Channel with Verizon Value Brands. She said that “several hundred” Total by Verizon stores would open in 2023, with “several hundred” more opening in 2024. At some point, there is a plan to have “several thousand” Total by Verizon stores open.

This is a huge development for the prepaid market, but it isn’t a bolt out of the blue. L.A. Business First, a business publication in Southern California, reported in June that Total by Verizon “plans to open more than 100 stores in the Los Angeles area in 2023.”

Tall order, but Verizon is investing and the ecosystem is developing

Nationwide carriers have long had a store presence across the U.S. for their prepaid brands. T-Mobile has Metro by T-Mobile, and AT&T has Cricket Wireless. Sprint for a long time had Boost Mobile, but now Boost Mobile is operated by Dish Network. Verizon has long been the odd man out for such an effort, but that is changing.

This is a tall order. Between them, Metro by T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Boost Mobile have roughly 15,000 stores.

The first sign that Verizon was serious about this was a major announcement that was made last September. Embedded in the announcement is a film that was shot at one of the first Total by Verizon stores, which is in Passaic, New Jersey. Two Verizon prepaid executives were in the film.

Verizon is serious about this. Verizon hosted events at the Expo and had meeting rooms set aside. Master dealers Abmnus, NexGen, and AntGen are working heavily to get dealers to open stores. A recent post on LinkedIn that hints about NexGen’s recent efforts at the Expo is here. Trade publications seen at the Expo had ads from Verizon master dealers pitching a $10K bonus for each store opened by a dealer through the end of August.

Victra is playing a significant role in this rollout. This is one of Verizon’s top dealers, and it operates more than 1,650 Verizon stores.

Serious advertising is now underway. For months, there was nothing but an introductory TV ad — “Introducing: Galaxy A13” — that was mostly intended to introduce the brand to prospects. Now, there is heavy TV advertising, with this current “All In” TV ad pitching the current offer of a free Galaxy A13 5G and unlimited family lines for as low as $25 per month each. The ad drives prospects to

However, this is not the first time that this has been tried.

Verizon in 2016 launched a rollout of stores that were selling nothing but Verizon Prepaid. Scores of such stores were launched, but the effort was not sustained, and the effort eventually fizzled out.

Also, when Verizon bought TracFone in 2021, it inherited a Total Wireless Store chain. These stores were essentially a “supermarket” of various TracFone brands, including three that are no longer actively sold. At one point, there were more than 200 such stores and early plans called for a much larger number. However, Verizon scuttled this effort last summer, just ahead of launch of the Total by Verizon brand.

I think that in part, Verizon wanted the new Total by Verizon brand to be more closely associated with Verizon and the brand halo of Verizon’s network, which often wins awards. Also, the predecessor Total Wireless brand used green as its color, while Total by Verizon uses the same red color that Verizon uses.

No guarantee of success, but the effort is there

The Verizon Prepaid store effort launched in 2016 fizzled out, and the Total Wireless Store solution was also discontinued. There are no guarantees that this effort will be successful. However, those efforts were small by comparison with the Total by Verizon store effort. Either way, this is a serious effort by a company with deep pockets. The 2023 All Wireless & Prepaid Expo was its debutante ball.

Jeff Moore is Principal of Wave7 Research, a wireless research firm that covers U.S. postpaid, prepaid, and smartphone competition. Moore has 25 years of telecom industry experience, including 13 years of competitive intelligence work for Sprint. Follow him on Twitter @wave7jeff.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce Wireless staff. They do not necessarily represent the opinions of Fierce Wireless.