BlackBerry denies report Z10 returns outnumber sales

The BlackBerry Z10 launch in the US is struggling, according to analysts, with one claiming the BlackBerry 10 device saw more returns than sales – a charge the company strongly denies.

The Z10 was launched in the UK first, with BlackBerry saying it had shipped a million devices and sold three-quarters of them in the first two months, before it went on sale in the US at the end of last month.

That launch hasn’t been successful, a pair of analysts have told the Wall Street Journal.

ITG analyst analyst Joe Fersedi said the launch “started poorly and weakened significantly”, with the Z10 selling only a “marginal” amount more than older models, the newspaper reported.

Another analyst, from Detwiler Fenton, said returns were actually outstripping sales. “We believe key retail partners have seen a significant increase in Z10 returns to the point where, in several cases, returns are now exceeding sales, a phenomenon we have never seen before,” Detwiler analyst Jeff Johnston wrote in a report, suggesting the number of phones that had been returned was more than the number that remained with customers.

BlackBerry hasn’t revealed any US sales figures, but denied the claim.

“BlackBerry wishes to respond to media coverage today regarding speculation that there have been abnormally high levels of returns of BlackBerry Z10 devices,” the company said. “This is absolutely false. Our data shows that return rates for BlackBerry Z10 devices both in the US and on a global basis are in line with or better than our expectations and are consistent with return rates for other premium smartphones in the market today.”

The company said it would ask securities regulators in the US and Canada to investigate the report, according to Reuters.

What next?

The Z10 has been described as a sales flop, with BlackBerry’s market share sliding in the UK, despite it posting its most encouraging sales figures here. However, analysts – including Johnston – are holding out hope for BlackBerry’s next handsets.

Johnston predicted better sales for the BlackBerry Q10, which features a Qwerty keyboard and is set to arrive in the UK at the end of the month.

Last week, Kantar Worldpanel ComTec analyst Dominic Sunnebo said the arrival of lower-end handsets should help boost BlackBerry. “The handset is likely to start selling in more serious numbers once the launch price falls, and BlackBerry 10 in general, when the the range is padded out with a number of wallet-friendly mid-range offerings.”

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