Virgin unveils its first v-room store

Virgin unveils its first v-room store

Virgin Holidays has kicked off a period of rapid retail growth as it opens a string of new-style stores across the country.

The operator opened its first v-room lounge-style outlet last week in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. A further seven are due to open before Christmas.

The stores, which feature a bar offering free alcoholic drinks, aim to “immerse customers in the Virgin brand” as much as make bookings.

The v-room-style stores – branded Virgin Holidays – are based on the v-room lounges at Gatwick and Manchester airports.

Before last week, Virgin Holidays had three standalone stores, in High Street Kensington, Maidenhead and Meadowhall. The eight new v-room stores will increase the number of standalone units to 11.

Sales director Lee Haslett said Virgin would have 118 stores and concessions by the end of the year, with more planned for 2016.

He said Virgin was investing a significant amount in retail, which accounts for about 40% of sales. He wouldn’t divulge sales targets for the v-room stores but said he was less concerned with growing “retail’s share of business and more concerned with growing the overall business”.

Haslett said the new stores would offer a “unique experience”, insisting that the basic concept of a travel agency was “no longer good enough” to entice customers.

“You have to give people a reason to come to the high street,” he said. “It’s no longer good enough to just have a shop with brochures on a wall and sales people behind a desk.”

Other v-room stores will open in the MetroCentre, Gateshead; Bristol Cripps Causeway; Lakeside, Essex; Sheffield; and Leeds Trinity centre.

The other two locations have yet to be revealed, but Haslett hinted at plans for Manchester, Birmingham and Scotland.

Haslett added: “We will be doing more standalone stores next year but we haven’t confirmed those yet.

“The aim is to open in destination shopping centres.

“We will shy away a bit from the high street because that’s where our concessions are.”


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