Virgin Mobile will open the first in a “significant wave” of own-branded mobile retail outlets at the Lakeside Shopping Centre, in Thurrock, at the end of July.
Two more standalone stores will follow before the end of the year, with a heftier roll out of new stores planned for 2007.
Many of those could be The Link stores. Virgin Mobile is reportedly negotiating to take as many as 100 of the 240 stores that new owner O2 reckons it doesn’t need.
Virgin Mobile trading director Graeme Hutchinson has said he wants “in excess of” 200 stores in total.
Virgin Mobile already has 119 specialist stores within Virgin Megastores and WH Smith outlets. It will also open five new concessions by the end of the year, and recruit around 20 people to staff the three own-brand stores.
The store roll-out will be accompanied by a new retail strategy, which details “a bold, youthful and interactive design” that “brings technology to life and makes it meaningful and fun”. Virgin Mobile also said that the standalone stores will stock non-Virgin branded items such as clothing.
“When Virgin Mobile launched, we started selling phones in Virgin Megastores and our competitors said we’d never sell mobiles in record shops, but how wrong they were,” said Hutchinson.
“Our new stores will not only showcase the latest and greatest phones and technology but will also celebrate Virgin’s associations with music and entertainment. On the back of our recent deal with NTL/Telewest the stores will also provide an excellent opportunity for the roll-out of our unique ‘quadruple play’ offer.”