Virgin Megastore pulls Kuwait operations, store to close end-Feb

The news comes just weeks after supplier Music Master left due to music censorship
Virgin Megastore pulls Kuwait operations, store to close end-Feb
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Thu 09 Feb 2012 11:54 AM

International music retailer Virgin Megastore has announced plans to suspend its operations in Kuwait just weeks after supplier Music Master pulled out of the country due to censorship of albums and artwork.

The world’s largest entertainment chain is due to close its store in Kuwait’s Marina Mall by the end of this month, and will rush to sell the remaining stock through a clearance sale to end on the store’s final day.

Virgin declined to comment on whether the move was related to censorship issues, but sources say the firm has been mulling the scale of its retail operations in the Gulf state for some time.

According to reports, almost 60 percent of products sold at Virgin Megastore are banned in Kuwait, with the Ministry of Information forbidding CDs by artists such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Eminem due to their controversial lyrics.

“Virgin Megastore is saddened to leave Kuwait. We thank our loyal customers for their relentless support over the years,” said Nisreen Shocair, President of Virgin Megastore MENA.

“This has been a difficult decision, but it is one that will allow us to better manage our resources and focus on growing the markets that support the Virgin Megastore business model.”

Last month, record distributor Music Master said it was also pulling out of the cash-rich Gulf state as it was struggling to maintain profit margins.

It said the restrictions on what music could be sold had put downward pressure on sales and made it difficult to justify doing business there.

“There is too much censorship to justify having a full-scale operation there,” Saeed El Ajou, managing director of the Dubai-based company, told Arabian Business.

“It is basically lyrics and artwork and anything that is seen as provocative won’t go through. Anything which has any provocative lyrics or any innuendo,” said El Ajou.

The country’s restrictions eclipse those enforced even by conservative Saudi Arabia, he said.

“It is purely Kuwait-specific, everywhere else we are very fortunate that there are no censorship issues. Even Saudi has been liberal in what they allow through.

“Kuwaiti people are very forward-thinking so it is unfortunate.”

Kuwait, along with most Gulf states, has been battling to modernise its society and at the same time maintain conservative traditions. In 2008, music shops were closed, and in 2009, politicians called for music education to be banned.

A number of singers have also been prevented from performing in Kuwait, including Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram who was refused permission to hold a concert in 2005.

Egyptian singer Tamer Hosni’s show in 2008 ended abruptly when a fan jumped up on stage and kissed him.

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