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iTunes claims new Virgin scalp

Virgin Megastores close, open as Zavvi

Apple's iTunes online music and movie store has claimed another victim on the high street, as traditional retailers feel the digital download heat.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson has sold the UK chain of his Virgin record stores to the business's senior staff. The 125 UK and Irish Megastores will be rebranded as Zavvi in November.

In 1979 the company opened its first Megastore at the end of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.

"In the past six years we have been withdrawing from entertainment retailing which is no longer viewed as core to the group's future," said Sir Richard.

Zavvi will be run by the current management team, headed by MD Simon Douglas.

"We will deliver a new brand that lives and breathes entertainment and delivers high quality enthusiastic service to existing and new customers," said Douglas.

According to market research firm NPD, in the first quarter of 2007, Apple's iTunes Store overtook Amazon.com and Target to become the US's third largest music retailer with around 10% of all music sales.

Based on a survey of 40,000 people aged 13 and older, researchers calculated Wal-Mart led the way with a 15.8% market share. Best Buy is second with 13.8%, while Apple, the top online outlet, enjoys 10% of the total US music market. Amazon is in fourth place with 6.7%, while Target stores are fifth with a 6.6% share of the US market.

Tower Records, Music Zone, MVC and Fopp are among the retailers that have already closed down on the UK high street.

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