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Virgin pounds 30m investment to create 300 UK jobs

Richard Branson's Virgin empire is to invest pounds 30m in its retail business in the next two years, creating 300 jobs across Britain.

Virgin Retail - a joint venture with WH Smith - is to spend pounds 20m opening a total of 12 new stores this year and next. The group will spend a further pounds 10m developing and extending its existing outlets.

The investment will include the creation of eight new Megastores, one of which will situated on London's King's Road. Simon Wright, finance and property director at Virgin Retail, said the King's Road store would have a "special atmosphere" to reflect the musical and cultural heritage in the area.

He added: "We're going to try and inject atmosphere in terms of the design and graphics that reflects the heritage of the King's Road, which is somewhat unique." Mr Wright said the company would open the UK's largest entertainment store outside London in Glasgow in 1999.

Virgin has planned other Megastores in Brighton and Cork in the next two years. The developments are part of a strategy to focus on Virgin's larger stores, Mr Wright said. Previously the company has concentrated on smaller retail outlets.

Virgin Retail was one of Mr Branson's first ventures back in the Seventies. There are now 75 Megastores across the country, selling records, books, videos and computer games.