Independent wireless dealers are getting recognition for keeping stores open during the height of the pandemic last year, when many corporate-owned wireless stores were shuttered.

The National Wireless Independent Dealer Association (NWIDA) already has secured a proclamation by the state of Georgia, signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, declaring May 2021 as Independent Wireless Retailers Month, recognizing owners and employees of retail establishments for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. NWIDA President Adam Wolf said he’s hopeful that many other states will follow Georgia’s lead.

NWIDA cites information from Wave7 Research showing almost 80% of corporate-owned wireless stores closed at the height of the pandemic while more than 76% of independent shops remained open.

“These were the guys that were open during the height of the pandemic,” Wolf said. “It was the indirect that stayed open.”

Of course, the staff at carrier-owned stores didn’t have much choice in the matter as those decisions were made at the corporate level, whereas independent dealers could make the call on their own, with health and safety measures in place. 

RELATED: To close or not to close? It’s pretty much up to dealers

NWIDA and Corporate Dynamics Inc. (CDI), a wireless consulting and training business, are co-sponsoring the virtual Dealer Success Summit, or DSS ‘21, with content from prepaid and postpaid dealers, wireless operators and MVNOs. The main topic tracks are “Making Money in Wireless” and “The Future of Wireless.”

According to Wolf, it’s the first time, that he’s aware of, where the content is being created by other dealers. Each weekday in May will feature new content, with Fridays focusing on repairs. There’s a legal track as well.

The organization and CDI on Monday released the speaker list for the DSS event, with the major carriers and Dish Network represented. John Dwyer of AT&T/Cricket; Sarah LeBlanc of Verizon; Terry Hayes of T-Mobile and Mark Dahlquist of Dish are on the list, as well as Peter Adderton, founder of Boost Mobile and CEO of Boost Mobile Australia, and UScellular CEO Laurent Therivel.

The presence of the major carriers is notable because even though they rely on independent retailers, it’s been somewhat of a love/hate relationship over the years.

“It’s always been kind of a crazy relationship,” Wolf acknowledged. Lately, it seems like the operators are swinging back to a phase where they’re relying more heavily on dealers. “Everybody’s loving the dealers again. It’s been flipping back and forth since 1989, that I know of, at least.”

RELATED: AT&T closing hundreds more stores

Last year, AT&T shifted its Cricket prepaid brand to a 100% authorized retailer model, meaning the phones and services that are sold through brick and mortar stores are strictly through dealers and not corporate-owned stores. At the time, there were about 4,400 AT&T authorized retail stores.  

It’s historically been less expensive to rely on dealers than pay to operate corporate-owned stores. But it’s easier for the carriers to control the messaging when they’re paying corporate employees, Wolf noted.

RELATED: Metro dealers accuse T-Mobile of trying to poach customers

Last year, dealers complained about changes T-Mobile was making in commissions for Metro by T-Mobile dealers, and reports surfaced that T-Mobile had given notice to non-exclusive dealers that they would not be allowed to sell Metro by T-Mobile if they sell other brands.

More recently, as executives promised they would do during their investment meeting last month, Metro by T-Mobile is being sold in some T-Mobile stores in rural areas, according to Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research. 


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