WH Smith stores to trial Virgin Mobile concessions

WH Smith has signed up Virgin Mobile to trial concessions in its high street stores.

The troubled magazine, stationery and book retailer has been looking at ways to better utilise space in its larger stores that have excess capacity.

Virgin Mobile is to test specialist stores in eight WH Smith outlets for one year from October 1. The mobile phone operator has the option to roll out the idea to more of WH Smith’s 500 stores if the trial is successful. The concessions will have the same format as those in Virgin Megastores and Virgin Xpress outlets and will be staffed by specialist Virgin Mobile staff.

The deal with Virgin Mobile comes at the same time as an agreement with Costa Coffee to create coffee shops at 20 WH Smith stores that add to the four concessions that it already has with the retailer. The Costa Coffee concession will be positioned adjacent to the book departments where possible.

WH Smith commercial development director Sue Wharton says: “Having identified the opportunity to bring additional products to our customers, we felt there was a natural synergy between our customer offer and coffee shops and mobile phones.”

The concessions are part of chief executive Kate Swann’s recovery strategy for the retailer that includes beefing up book and magazine ranges and its stationery offer. Shortly after being made chief executive last year, Swann was forced to contend with a takeover offer for the business by Permira, which has since been withdrawn.

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