Cricket's new president: We're going to expand distribution beyond 3,800 Cricket stores in 2016

The new president of AT&T's (NYSE: T) Cricket prepaid business, John Dwyer, said the company plans to significantly expand its market reach by opening more exclusive, Cricket-branded retail outlets across the country. "We've got a very aggressive distribution strategy," he said.

Dwyer said Cricket currently counts around 3,800 exclusive, Cricket-branded retail stores, and 95 percent of those are owned by dealers. He said Cricket counts a total of around 9,000 points of distribution ranging from online sites like Amazon to big-box retailers like Target to its own Cricket-branded stores.

Dwyer said the company added around 900 Cricket-branded retail stores to its nationwide footprint in 2015, and he said the company plans to continue its aggressive retail buildout strategy this year into markets where the Cricket brand isn't well known. AT&T acquired the Cricket prepaid brand from Leap Wireless in 2013 for $1.2 billion, and since then has shut down Leap's legacy CDMA network and has expanded the brand from around a dozen markets to a nationwide offering.

Dwyer late last year took over Cricket from Jennifer Van Buskirk, who headed AT&T's Aio Wireless prepaid brand prior to AT&T's purchase of Leap. Previously Dwyer led AT&T's Customer Experience efforts. Van Buskirk is now the president of AT&T's Northeast Region business, helping to sell AT&T's postpaid products and services in that area.

Dwyer explained that Cricket's retail expansion will help the company maintain the momentum it generated in 2015. He said that "a purchase of a wireless device is a significant moment of truth" for some Cricket customers, and they often want to conduct that purchase face-to-face with a sales person in a retail store. Dwyer also said Cricket has worked to train its employees to "go the extra smile" and provide positive purchasing experiences for the customers who visit the company's retail stores.

Dwyer also said Cricket will continue to work to offer new and affordable LTE devices to its customers. This week the company announced it will sell the rugged Kyocera DuraForce X D and Hyrdo VIEW. Dwyer said Cricket customers often prefer phones with larger screens than those who shop at Cricket parent AT&T.

Interestingly, Cricket is no longer offering the handset financing options that Leap toyed with prior to AT&T's acquisition of the company. Dwyer said that "there are opportunities there" for Cricket to offer handset financing options, which allow customers with suitable credit scores to pay off the cost of their devices in monthly installments. "We're always evaluating and exploring what that [handset financing] would look like," he said.

In the third quarter, AT&T reported that it added a whopping 466,000 prepaid voice subscribers -- a reversal of the loss the carrier reported in the year-ago quarter -- that AT&T attributed to the success of its Cricket and our GoPhone brands. The carrier also said it is seeing increasing revenues from its Cricket smartphone customers: Specifically, the carrier said average revenue per user from its Cricket smartphone users was nearly $10 higher than its postpaid feature phone ARPU losses during the third quarter.

"We are growing faster than anyone else in the industry," Dwyer said.

AT&T is scheduled to report its fourth quarter results, which will likely include Cricket's progress, on Jan. 26.

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