By Adam Clark

 

Comcast Corp.'s European pay-television arm Sky is planning to open its first brick-and-mortar stores in the U.K., in a rare physical expansion at a time when many companies are closing branches.

Sky said Wednesday that it would open some stores in 2020, with the first one in Liverpool on Oct. 26, with more potentially to follow in 2021. It didn't say how many shops it would open in total.

"Sky Shops are a departure from traditional shops and, in the long-term, will offer a new social hub for shoppers," the company said. The company intends to sell its pay TV, mobile and broadband products via the stores but also offer customer services and technology repairs, the latter in a deal with the iSmash chain.

Sky's parent Comcast has several hundred Xfinity stores in the U.S., in addition to its own retail-service centers. Comcast bought Sky for around $39 billion in 2018.

The move comes at a time when thousands of U.K. retail sites are being left empty as companies cut back in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the increasing shift to online purchases. Research released on Sunday by PwC and the Local Data Company found a net 6,001 stores closed in the U.K. in the first half of 2020, a record level. A total of 11,120 outlets closed while 5,119 opened.

Some of Sky's competitors have also cut their physical presence. Vodafone Group PLC said last year that it would shut 15% of its 7,700 stores, which are primarily located across Europe. Carphone Warehouse, a retailer of smartphones and associated products, said earlier this year it would close all its 531 standalone stores.

 

Write to Adam Clark at adam.clark@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 21, 2020 07:42 ET (11:42 GMT)

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