Pic courtesy: Virgin Megastore Middle East Image Credit:

Dubai: Virgin Megastore Middle East, an entertainment retail chain, is set to expand in the Gulf with the opening of at least four stores by 2015, Nisreen Shocair, the company’s president for the region told Gulf News in an interview.

Shocair was speaking on the sidelines of the Retail Insights forum, organised by the London Business School, on Wednesday.

One store is set to open at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall in November this year, while at least two outlets are expected to open in Qatar (one of which is expected to be at Hamad International Airport) and one in Oman, a new market for the company.

Virgin Megastore Middle East, which sells everything from music and films to consumer electronics and books, has 14 stores in the region. Of those, eight are in the UAE.

The company’s revenue is expected to grow “by 15 per cent this year”, Shocair said. She declined to comment when asked about the company’s sales target.

The UAE is the retailer’s top market in the region (accounting for 45 per cent of sales), followed by Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan.

Consumers buy music and films online

As consumers turn to buying films and music online, Virgin Megastore Middle East has reduced the volumes of its CDs and DVDs. However, the company has seen strong demand for vinyl, especially from young consumers, and it is dedicating more space within its stores for the product, according to Shocair.

“Today music and video is 15 per cent of our business,” she said, compared to “between 60 and 70 per cent” in 2006.

“If the space I’m dedicating to music and video is giving me the return I need, then I keep it within that space and I shrink it according to demand,” she said.

Meanwhile, Virgin Megastore France, owned by private equity firm Butler Capital Partners, has been facing losses for years as consumers download music and films online. It declared itself insolvent last year, and in 2012, it closed several stores and cut staff.

Shocair said the retailer “loses business” when consumers turn to the Internet to view the top 40 songs.

“If Beyoncé comes out with a new album, it’s instantly online for everyone to download for free,” she said, citing an example.

Virgin Megastore Middle East is also boosting its online presence, having launched a ticketing site last month. Around 35 per cent of tickets are sold online in the region, according to Shocair.