London: Richard Branson on 18 September sold his Virgin Megastores record shops in Britain and Ireland, shedding the brand that launched his Virgin empire.
The British tycoon said high street music retailing was facing a stiff challenge from supermarket and online sales. Virgin Group sold Virgin Megastores in Britain and Ireland for an undisclosed sum to a management buy-out team.
The deal creates Britain and Ireland’s largest independent entertainment retailer and the 125 stores will now be rebranded as Zavvi after Zavvi Entertainment Group. “I opened my first Virgin Megastore when I was 16, 30 years ago, so it’s a slightly sad day to be selling them today,” entrepreneur Branson said.
“But I’m selling them to the people who ran the stores so I’m certain they’ll be in good hands.” He said Virgin Group had chosen to move away from retailing into licensing music. “There’s no question that with online sales and cheap supermarket prices that music retailing has become a different business than it was 30 years ago when I started,” he said.
Branson’s Virgin Group includes interests as diverse as airlines, mobile phones, radio stations, trains and cola. Branson founded Virgin as a mail order record retailer in 1970 and a year later opened the first Virgin record shop opened on London’s Oxford Street main shopping thoroughfare.
In 1979, the company moved into the giant Oxford Street “megastore” that remains its flagship outlet.