Cricket made good on its recent promise to expand its retail footprint in a big way, announcing distribution deals with Best Buy and the lease-to-own retail chain Aaron's.
AT&T's prepaid division said an initial selection of its phones will be available through Best Buy's website and on the shelves of its 1,000-plus brick-and-mortar stores over the next two weeks. Cricket will continue adding smartphones to Best Buy's lineup over the next two months.
While most handsets in the U.S. are still sold through carriers-branded stores, Best Buy is powerful handset retailer. The chain sells devices for all four tier-one carriers and for notable prepaid service providers such as Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile and TracFone.
Cricket also said its phones will be sold at "close to" 2,000 Aaron's stores across the country. Aaron's customers can buy devices from the retailer or bring phones they already own to stores to activate them using Cricket's BYOD SIM card kit.
While Aaron's may not have the brand recognition Best Buy enjoys, it also is an active phone retailer. The chain sells and leases unlocked GSM devices that can be activated on services from AT&T, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and TracFone, among others.
The two deals expand Cricket's distribution to more than 12,000 retail outlets nationwide.
Cricket chief John Dwyer said earlier this year that the company would pursue "a very aggressive distribution strategy" this year through its own branded stores as well as those of third parties. Cricket phones are available from online vendors such as Amazon as well as through Target and other big-box retailers.
"These are two different national retailers in very different spaces," Dwyer said of Aaron's and Best Buy. "Aaron's is a national retailer with 2,000 doors that serves this value-conscious space very, very effectively…. Best Buy is a premier consumer-electronics retailer, and they see the growth that Cricket is experiencing."
Indeed, Cricket continues to gain impressive traction in prepaid alongside its competitor MetroPCS, which is T-Mobile's prepaid brand. AT&T added 466,000 net prepaid subscribers in the third quarter of 2015, then scored another 469,000 in the fourth quarter -- thanks in part to the hefty $63 million AT&T spent promoting its prepaid business in the fourth quarter.
Cricket sells a wide variety of phones from the $10 LG Risio to the $850 iPhone 6s Plus. Plans start at $35 a month after a $5 "auto-pay" credit with all taxes and fees included, and top out at $60 a month for 10 GB of high-speed data as well as unlimited voice and text.
Cricket's new president: We're going to expand distribution beyond 3,800 Cricket stores in 2016
AT&T names John Dwyer Cricket's new chief, Van Buskirk to head Northeast Region
Sprint's retreat from Virgin and prepaid underscore strength of MetroPCS and Cricket