Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Richard Branson, Analyst

Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Global. Referring to his retail-music business, he basically says that the original concept is running out of gas, that they’re trying to evolve it to the next stage, and that they don’t know if it will work.

Q: You said at the opening of the new store in Los Angeles that you have to adapt to make sure that Virgin stores are here 50 years from now. How do you do that?

A: You really have to be a chameleon to be in the music business, and in any business actually. Nothing lasts forever. What we’re basically trying to be is a lifestyle shop, but very much reflecting the Virgin brand. So we have great books, we’ll have the best films, the best DVDs and lots of nice little touches. We still want to have the broadest range of music, but we can’t survive on music alone. I just don’t think there’s a future, I’m afraid, in that kind of store anymore.

Q: You have closed six stores in the United States and opened one. Any plans to close or open any other stores?

A: We’ve sorted out the loss makers now. If this store [the latest-generation Virgin Megastore, just opened in Los Angeles] works, you know we could do hundreds of them. But we’ve got to still make it work. And this industry is a tough one. Even trying to reinvent yourself is tough. Nothing is guaranteed. It’s a much tougher industry than it was 20 years ago. We’ve invested a lot of money in our music retail company. We’ll give people a big chance to see if they can deliver. And hopefully they will be able to.“

The last paragraph sounds so...realistic. It’s the celebrity CEO as analyst rather than cheerleader. I like it.

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