It is predicted that, before long, there will be two mobile phone handsets per person in the UK, and along with all those phones comes an array of accessories perfect for small retailers to add to their repertoire.

Pal Singh, sales director at accessories supplier ASB UK, says that this area can definitely be a winner for convenience stores, especially since mobile phones are now fashion accessories as well as a mode of communication. Singh says: "Stocking mobile phone accessories can be very successful as it's something different and there will always be a demand. Selling accessories provides another reason for people to come into your store where they will be prepared to spend money."

He says that to start with it's best to keep what you stock simple, and then expand to suit the growth in demand. "Retailers should first concentrate on the core range of SIM cards and chargers, with a small range of other accessories.

"Keep the chargers limited to the key brands and don't overcomplicate things," he adds. "And when you're ready to increase your range, move into a selection of cases, covers and light-ups."

Neil Thakkar, who owns a Nisa Local in Leicester, recently expanded his mobile phone accessory range. He had stocked pay-as-you-go sim cards and mobile top-ups, but in the past month has added a five-metre display of accessories that includes phone chargers, cases, light-up charms and car charger adaptors. He also stocks a range of mobile phone handsets.

"Mobile phones already attract a lot of interest," says Neil. "We sell about 40 to 50 top-ups on a daily basis and these have a minimum value of £5 each. SIM cards are popular as well. We have cards for 99p and sell an average of 10 a week. These are great and are available for all the major networks O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange."

Neil's store is close to Leicester University so most of his customers are students on the lookout for the most modern handset or accessory. He also employs several students in the store so if there are any awkward questions about phones, his staff are on hand to answer them. "I can probably answer most questions customers would ask about phones but if there's anything I can't, my staff can," he says. "Members of my staff are my target market so they will also be able to give me advice on any new products I should be stocking."

Sunstar group spokesman Syed Husain says that stores next to train stations should do well with mobile phone accessories sales. "Our store near King's Cross Station does really well for sim card sales," he says. "People who have just come to the UK via plane or train want a UK mobile number so they will buy one as soon as they reach London. We sell several dozen every week."

Singh says that stores close to tourist areas also see a demand for accessories. "People will come in looking for international top-ups to call home and if the retailer has a range of accessories they are likely to buy something on impulse," he says.

Where to put them?

Singh says that when it comes to siting accessories retailers should put them in areas that attract impulse buyers. "SIM cards and chargers should be kept near the counter as people may buy them while in the store for something else," he advises.

Adds Neil: "There is a free-to-use ATM in the store that is really popular with students. By placing the accessories close to the machine, we can target people who use the machine and we know that they'll have money in their pocket."

As well as placing the accessories in key selling locations, Neil makes sure to protect stock that may be tempting to shoplifters. "We make sure to keep the high-value items such as mobile phones themselves behind the till to minimise the threat of theft," he adds.

The potential for added sales from mobile phones is calling all retailers have to do is answer.
Phone facts
l There are almost 77 million mobile subscriptions in the UK more than the entire population l More than 80 billion texts were sent in the UK in 2009 l 15 million handsets are replaced in the UK every year l Some 90 million unused handsets are gathering dust in drawers and toy boxes across the UK
Charging up sales
Even if your customers aren't looking for a new charger or cover for their phone, they may be in desperate need of powering up their battery. Quickie Mobile fits charging units in c-stores that provide a 10-minute charge that can last up to eight hours and for which retailers can charge £1. Costcutter-affiliated retail group Sunstar recently installed a Quickie mobile phone charging unit in its Tower Hamlets store. "We're close to several office blocks so get a lot of workers needing to charge their phones," says Sunstar spokesman Syed Husain. "Every type of phone can be charged in it and it's in use a good portion of the day. Because it takes 10 minutes, customers are more likely to buy a magazine or coffee while they are waiting," he adds. Quickie machines also have a screen that can relay advertisements, so retailers can inform customers about offers or advertise other local businesses. "Since the customers want to wait close to the phone while it is charging, they can't help but see the ads," Husain points out.