Belfast Telegraph

HMV stores in province likely to escape closure

Hmv and Waterstone's shops in Northern Ireland are likely to escape the cull announced after disastrous Christmas trading figures for its parent group, it has emerged.

HMV Group, which has 12 HMVs and five Waterstone's booksellers in Northern Ireland, said its peak trading period had been "significantly undermined" by the weather as it continued to struggle in the face of stiff competition.

It announced plans to close 40 HMV stores and 20 Waterstone's across the UK and Ireland in response.

HMV's UK and Ireland like-for-like sales slumped by 13.6% in the five weeks to January 1, despite easier comparisons with trading a year earlier.

Shares plummeted 24% after the company, which has some 600 HMV and Waterstone's stores in the UK, warned profits for the year to April would be near the bottom of the current range of City forecasts.

But Gennaro Castaldo, head of communications at HMV, said store closures were unlikely to affect Northern Ireland.

"We are actually talking about a relatively small number of stores across HMV and Waterstone's chains - less than 10% of our combined estates, which are likely to be located primarily in large-city conurbations and may be in close proximity to each other - thus resulting in a degree of duplication in relation to local demand, which is something I would say is not the case in Northern Ireland, which remains a very important market for us."

Despite the gloom across the group, James Rider, manager of HMV at Castle Place in Belfast, said Christmas business had been "ok".

"The snow did have an impact on footfall but that was the case for probably every other shop in Belfast city centre.

"The biggest problem throughout the year was the roadworks. Those being removed had a big positive impact.

"There was a bit of snow of course but people still came out to get their Christmas DVDs and CDs and I would say the trading over Christmas was OK, considering everything else that has been going on."

In its trading update yesterday, fashion chain Next has said it lost £22m in sales as retailers revealed the impact of December's big freeze on festive trading.