Carphone Warehouse braces for Apple iPhone stampede

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Carphone Warehouse is bracing itself for a stampede of customers rushing to its stores tonight as Apple's much-hyped iPhone goes on sale in the UK, with the company confident it can sell as many as it can get its hands on.

Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, said he expects the flashy touch-screen handset to fly off the shelves and buoy its second half sales. He said the iPhone will be "the product this Christmas" and the retailer has put on extra staff to cope with demand for when stores re-open at 6.02pm – the extra two minutes representing a nod to O2, which is the network behind the iPhone – tonight stocked to the brim with Apple's device.

Mr Dunstone said that customers had already started queuing outside Apple's store in Regent Street yesterday afternoon to be the first to get hold of an iPhone. Consumers that miss out on the iPhone may have to settle on a raft of fashion-oriented handsets that carry brands as diverse as Porsche, Yves Saint Laurent, Ted Baker and Levis.

Despite the excitement surrounding the UK launch of the most-talked-about handset in mobile phone history, it was Carphone Warehouse's plans to expand rapidly in the US that got analyst's hearts racing. The retailer had previously revealed that it planned to open 200 outlets in North America through its relationship with the US electronics giant Best Buy. Yet after successful trials, it has upped that target to expand to 1,000 locations by the end of 2009 and has started talking to its partner about expanding the partnership into Canada.

"The US is an enormous and under-penetrated market place," Mr Dunstone said, although he said that he would not look to expand outside the Best Buy agreement, whereby Carphone outlets are opened inside the US retailer's stores. "It would take a very brave person to say you can go it alone in the US. There are plenty of shipwrecks on the shore," he said.

Carphone Warehouse also made progress in the broadband market, adding 215,000 customers in the six weeks to September.

The company, which trades under the TalkTalk and AOL brands, has 2.5 million broadband customers. Significantly over half of those customers have been migrated on to its own network, a key factor in the company's push to make profits out of high-speed internet. As a result, Carphone's profits in the first half reached £56m compared with £14m the year before.