Sky announces surprise move into physical retail

At a time when physical retail is struggling in the UK, Comcast-owned pay TV operator Sky has announced that it will open retail locations for the first time in its 30-year history. 

The first store will open on October 26 in Liverpool, with the operator saying that it will open further shops in 2020 and 2021.

Sky said that the physical locations will bring its pay TV, mobile and broadband products to the high street under one roof, with the stores focused on experiential retail. The company said that Sky Shops “are a departure from traditional shops” and that it has aspirations for the locations to become “a new social hub for shoppers.”

Stores will be separated into designated themed spaces across an open-plan layout, with a number of breakout spaces for interactive demonstrations of Sky’s product like the Sky Q set-top-box.

The stores will also play host to tech repair chain iSmash, following a deal between the pair which will provide customers with the ability to fix their smart devices.

Sky added that the stores will operate within the boundaries of the Government’s Covid-19 safety measures, including strict social distancing and mandatory facemasks.

Stephen van Rooyen, Executive Vice President & Chief Executive Officer, UK & Europe, said: “Our new Sky shops are a great way for us to showcase the amazing benefits and customer service we have to offer new and existing customers. We’re proud to see our shops opening at a challenging time for the UK high street, and alongside our partners at iSmash, we’ll bring service, innovation and convenience all in one place, under one roof, at a time when keeping people connected has never been more important.”

2019 was, according to the ONS, the worst year for UK physical retail since 2009, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will not have done the industry any favours as shoppers spent more than half the year encouraged to stay at home.

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