Virgin Media to disappear from UK high street as all 50 stores will not reopen once lockdown ends

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is to disappear from the high street after deciding its network of more than 50 retail stores will stay shut once the coronavirus pandemic lockdown ends.

The cable and TV company, which operates 53 stores in the UK, is offering the 341 affected staff the opportunity to move to newly created roles.

About 300 of those posts will be in customer care, the majority of those based permanently at home, a decision Virgin Media has taken because of the success of its call centre staff moving to a working-from-home environment during the lockdown. Another 50 newly created roles relate mostly to field sales roles.

“We are focused on delivering the service customers want, in the ways they want it and at a time and place that suits them,” said Rob Orr, an executive director for sales at Virgin Media. “By creating new jobs in our most popular care and sales channels, we will be better able to provide our customers with the top service and support they rightly expect while retaining our talented workforce.”

The coronavirus pandemic has hastened a strategic shift the company was already making – moving away from the high street as more and more sales and customer inquiries were taking place online or over the phone. Virgin Media has whittled down the number of stores and kiosks it operates in the UK from 140 in 2016. In recent years, its rival Sky has also moved to dramatically reduce the number of physical stores it has across the UK.

In March, Virgin Media moved to employ 500 new call centre staff in the UK over concerns that the outsourcing of customer calls to offshore workers in countries including India and the Philippines could be interrupted by the spread of the virus.

Virgin Media has also moved to directly hire 700 engineers, most of whom were working for the cable company but employed by third-party businesses, to ensure it had the staff numbers to continue to carry out home visits, including installations and repairs.

The company, which employs 12,000 people, is in the early stages of a merger with the mobile operator O2 to create a new TV, broadband and mobile powerhouse to challenge BT and Sky.