The evolution of Virgin Megastores

Black and white image of Richard Branson smiling
Image by Virgin.com
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 21 February 2019

I love seeing the evolution of Virgin businesses and one very close to my heart is Virgin Megastores.

It’s amazing how it has transformed from a record shop on Oxford Street into a leading lifestyle retail destination in the Middle East, with more than 40 stores across the region.

 

Richard Branson with Virgin Megastore employees
Virgin Megastores / Reed Ghounaim

Our record shop was the first ever shop we opened under the Virgin name, and we wanted it to be a place where people could meet and listen to records together; somewhere where they weren’t simply encouraged to dash in, buy the record and leave. 

Black and white photo of a young Richard Branson sitting next to a woman, both wearing headphones
Image from Virgin.com

Virgin Megastores has pivoted away from its record shop history but this ethos lives on. Customers can do more than just shop in a Virgin Megastore – you can get lost in whatever interests you from fashion, to gaming, to music. Marwan Hert, the President of Virgin Megastores, told me how the average customer spends 45 minutes in store. The shops have reimagined the retail experience by placing themed items together rather than just having shelves of books or games.

Richard Branson meets employees from Virgin Megastore
Image from Reed Ghounaim / Virgin Megastores

It’s exciting to hear about what’s in the pipeline for Virgin Megastores across the region. The team told me how they have relaunched their loyalty programme and are planning their expansion across the region with more stores opening. They have also broken into the online market and customers can now choose how they want to shop – online, in store, or both!

Richard Branson smiling at the camera, surrounded by a crowd of people
Image from Reed Ghounaim / Virgin Megastores

I have so many fond memories from opening Virgin Megastores across the world – such as descending in a parachute on a Salt Lake City store in 1992, or dressing up as the Mad Hatter of Boston in a purple sequinned suit in 2002. We have had so much fun with the Virgin Megastores brand over the years, so it’s really lovely to see it flourishing in the Middle East.

Richard Branson celebrates the opening of Virgin Megastore with a champagne bottle that is spraying champagne
Virgin.com

Seeing its success is also a pertinent reminder to always focus on the markets where you can be the most disruptive and to always be looking forward. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it evolving into a lifestyle shopping experience when I was sitting on a cushion listening to a record nearly 50 years ago, but it’s a concept that is becoming much-loved in the region and I can’t wait to see it develop even further.