i read on various blogs the unfortunate news regarding virgin megastore - in the evening, i decided to pay virgin a farewell visit as we are traveling tomorrow for a couple of weeks - i asked the cashier if the rumors i heard were true so he sadly confirmed the news saying that virgin megastore is not welcomed in kuwait! it seems that the lack of transparency in business practices, like forbidding the sale of certain products at virgin while the same products sell everywhere else, is having a serious impact on the business.
i was a bit skeptical about his answer, so i called a friend of mine who used to work at virgin, in a senior position - what i heard sadly confirms the cashier's story!
to start with, i learned that virgin as an organization respects the local laws where they operate because any lawsuit affects their international brand image - so for them, better go by the law than make a sale that will bring legal & reputation headaches.
my friend also told me that back in 2007 when virgin closed down for 3 days, the decision taken by the ministry of information was both unfair and unjust - apparently the ministry closed down the store because it was allegedly selling an unauthorized book, though the book in question (chicago by alaa al aswany) was never imported by virgin, as their policy recommends to buy books from local resellers rather than import them.
"chicago" was actually sold at various bookstores in town including jareer - to solve this issue, virgin went to the ministry of information with a number of "chicago" books bought at various bookstores in kuwait, and submitted them along with their receipts as proof of purchase - however, the ministry did not listen or even take any action against the bookstores, instead it enforced the law selectively on virgin.
troubles continued to pile-up for the brand - can you imagine that around 10% of virgin’s dvd library was licensed to sell in kuwait?! music with offensive or sensitive language, books with certain opinions were all red-taped! would you believe that even anaconda was strictly forbidden!
in an effort to increase revenue and decrease cost, virgin reduced the size of the store and diversified the business exploring new segments, like gadgets, electronics and accessories, but it seems that this was not enough.
my friend tells me “it is a miracle virgin have survived all this time” - i say it's one thing to believe in miracles and another to depend on them... too bad for virgin, it will be missed!
photo courtesy of bashar al-ba'noon.