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Virgin France workers protest at closure threat

Virgin France workers protest at closure threat
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In France it is being seen as a symbol of the losing battle being fought by traditional music stores against the ever-dominant world of digital downloads.

Virgin employees protested outside the company’s flagship megastore on the Champs Elysées. The chain has gone bust and all its shops look set to close.

“Personally I came here to keep my job,” said one young male worker.

“We are not dead, we are still standing and we won’t let it go,” vowed a female colleague.

Virgin stores have long disappeared from countries such as the US, the UK and Ireland.

But Virgin France had somehow managed to survive. Some see its demise as a cultural disaster.

The French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti blamed unfair competition with international online giants who pay far less tax.

“What we are seeing with Virgin is, in my opinion, the first episode in what will be the significant contraction of the trading system specialised in selling cultural products,” said Philippe Moati, Professor of Economics at Paris-Diderot University.

“It will certainly not go as far as to disappear completely, because there will always be a certain pleasure in wandering around a fascinating environment. But (in the future) there will be much less space dedicated to this world of consumption than today,” Moati added.

Legal steps are being taken to try to find a buyer for Virgin France. The government is awaiting an imminent report on taxation in the digital era.

But there are fears little can be done to stop the online tidal wave.

Speaking from the scene of the protest, euronews correspondent Giovanni Magi said: “The store on the Champs Elysées on its own accounted for 20 percent of the Virgin Group’s total turnover in France. For many years it’s been the chain’s most attractive megastore, but now there’s the risk that it’ll become the scene for a sad end for the famous brand.”