New Virgin Megastore Opens In London


London correspondent Stuart Green reports: The British don't often

claim to be the Biggest and Best at anything. They leave that kind of

boasting to the Americans who do it much better. But the Virgin

Megastore on Oxford Street, in the heart of London's swinging West End,

officially re-opened May 31 with the Lynn Frank's agency determined

that everyone should know that it was now "The World's Largest Home

Entertainment Superstore."

Welcome to Big Bang 2, named after Big Bang 1 which announced the

store's original opening and described by Virgin as "the biggest event

since the Big Bang at the beginning of time." It started at 10 am and

went on until two the following morning. Tricky Dick Branson cut the

ribbon himself and a series of top pop acts made personal appearances

throughout the day. Take That clones, BoyZone, kicked-off proceedings

with indie darlings, Gene, blowing the final whistle at around five

o'clock. But the real action was supposed to take place behind closed

doors after the ordinary paying punter was safely out of the way.

Supposedly A-list celebs had been invited to an in-store shindig that

would feature "special" guest appearances. It was a hot day for gossip

as rumors about the identity of the mystery guests grew around town,

peaking on the nutty idea that the Rolling Stones, and Oasis were going

to appear in a double bill. Predictably enough, there was no one more

special than "that bloke from D:Ream" playing a rare acoustic set. And

the only glamour Virgin could muster out of a big crowd came in the

form of various members of the cast of British soap, "Eastenders."

Still, Virgin do have something to celebrate. Their once humble record

shop atop a shoe vendor has grown into a "shopping experience" that

caters to 175,000 people a week - more than 50 a minute - who buy

55,000 items (one every four seconds). They have a permanent stage set

up for in-store performances that can be simultaneously broadcast via

in-store radio to all their shops in the country. They have 17

departments, on four floors spread over 67,000 sq. ft. And they could

hold a really good party there if they invited the right people.