Virgins Music Stores Love Affair with Kiosk

When the $225 million Virgin Entertainment Group decided its music stores needed multimedia kiosks, it put 150 of them into one store.

The Virgin Entertainment Group is trying to push the envelope on kiosk use, with plans to use the multimedia machines not just to play video clips, audio samples and game demos but to identify customers and to handle payments.

"Our minds are racing where we can go with this," said Robert Fort, the CIO for the 17-store chain with some 1,600 employees and $225 million in annual revenue. "Virgin is definitely a company known for innovation and our demographic may indeed be much more willing to participate in all of this stuff."

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The chain decided to start its kiosk experiment by putting 150 of the units into the chains flagship store in New York Citys Times Square: a 60,000-square-foot location that gets about 15,000 customer visitors on a typical day.

The stores IBM kiosks deliver their multimedia from a combination of three places: the kiosks 80GB internal drive; about 2TB of samples on a server at a company datacenter served through a T1 connection; and multimedia Web sites (include and streaming content to the kiosk.

Initially, music samples are just 30-second segments, but Virgins Fort said his company is working with various record labels "so they may start to allow us to play full-length tracks."

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