LONDON: US-owned cable network NTL:Telewest, which operates only in the UK, has announced its first retail venture under the one-size-fits-all Virgin brand.

Although it inherited 120 retail outlets as part of its £900 million ($1.69bn; €1.34bn) acquisition of Virgin Mobile earlier this year [WARC News: 23-Feb-06], this is NTL's first expansion under the ubiquitous Virgin brand, conceived in 1966 as a stroke of pubescent naughtiness by fresh-out-of-school embryo tycoon Richard Branson.

Hyped NTL chief operating officer Neil Berkett to the Financial Times: "Retail is going to be an important focus. As you move to a superior visual proposition such as video on demand and high definition, people want to look at it and feel it."

However, he was reluctant to quantify the expansion, saying only "we'll roll out stand-alone stores quite aggressively in 2007".

In addition to selling network subscriptions and cellphone hardware, NTL will also use the stores as damage control centres in an attempt to repair its poor reputation for customer service.

The stores will also be used for face-to-face explanation of its "quadruple play" package of broadband, pay-TV, landline and mobile phone services.

NTL will also use the stores to promote the concept of 'self-installation', enabling existing cable customers to buy and set-up digital TV boxes and other equipment.

Additionally, the cable giant is pulling-up its marketing socks. Says managing director Ashley Stockwell: "We've been very apologetic in the past. Now we are adopting a 'cable if you can' marketing strategy, emphasising benefits such as high speed, high definition and video on demand."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff