Virgin Media is to create a high street presence as the cable giant steps up its launch activity.
Managing director of marketing James Kydd says the brand is aiming to open 15 standalone stores in 2007, offering its television, broadband and home telephone services, although the focus will be on its Virgin Mobile range.
The stores will also sell goods such as t-shirts and memorabilia associated with Virgin Mobile and Media events such as V-Festival, in an effort to encourage shoppers through the doors.
However, he discounts ploys such as coffee areas and wi-fi access as "hackneyed". He says the new-look stores will be between "unprofitable, ego-driven" flagship stores and existing phone store chains.
Virgin Mobile has three stores in shopping centre locations, and a presence in music chain Virgin Megastore, but it is rebranding them to offer the full portfolio of Virgin Media products. However, Virgin says the inside areas will "evolve" rather than rapidly change to become more of a "consumer experience".
The plans mark a hotting up in the battle between Virgin and satellite operator BSkyB for the retail market. Sky has partnerships with a number of electronics retailers and last year bought shopping centre "concourse retailer" You Me TV, which has about 100 kiosks. It previously offered a range of cable and satellite brands but now sells only Sky-branded products. A Sky insider dismisses Virgin Media’s presence in record shops as an "odd alliance".
• Virgin Media is plotting a number of new channels following this week’s launch of on-demand channel Virgin Central. The media company, which also owns Virgin Media Television (which rebranded from Flextech), is believed to be close to launching a music channel.