T-Mobile Stores Getting Slayed By AT&T Merger

An early victim of the AT&T / T-Mobile merger has turned out to be independent T-Mobile store owners. They're already getting screwed by a merger that's eventually going to be bad for everyone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there are some 9200 AT&T and T-Mobile stores nationwide, and 41 percent of AT&T stores have a T-Mobile store within one mile. Unsurprisingly, this is one area where the merged company plans to save money by shuttering many of those stores. This is bad news for independent dealers. Worse, store owners can't know which stores are targeted for sunsetting reports the Journal.

[T-Mobile store owners] aren't allowed to communicate with AT&T about store planning while regulators are considering the deal. A decision is expected in early 2012.

Look, phone stores are basically the used car dealers of our era, full of swindlers more interested in making a sales bonus than an honest buck. And while it's tempting to chuckle at their misfortune, I'm sad to see this happen. It means less competition (which is bad for all of us), fewer jobs, and as the WSJ notes, a hit on an already depressed real-estate market.

A rash of store closings would be another headache for commercial landlords still digging out from store closings and bankruptcy filings by large retailers like Borders Group Inc., Circuit City and Linens 'n Things. Outdoor strip malls, which are popular with wireless stores, have been particularly hard hit, with a 10.9% vacancy rate that is expected to rise to a 21-year peak this year, according to research firm Reis Inc.

Hey, on the upside, your rates will probably go up, which will be good for AT&T executives. Great news, right?

[Wall Street Journal]