Belfast HMV to shut after fall-out over rental terms
Belfast's HMV store is once again under threat just over a month after it was taken over by Canadian music retailer Sunrise Records.
The Donegall Arcade outlet was included in the portfolio of shops sold as part of a rescue deal with Doug Putman's firm at the start of February.
But the Belfast Telegraph now understands that the potential closure of the last HMV in Northern Ireland is not linked to the music chain's administration, but instead stems from a failure to agree new terms with Donegall Arcade's landlord, Sports Direct.
Mike Ashley's company bought the 75,000 sq ft city centre retail hub in 2015, opening a Sports Direct outlet in the former Curry's unit.
The complex is home to retailers including Game and TK Maxx.
Just weeks after heaving a sigh of relief when Sunrise rescued their jobs, staff at HMV were yesterday left to erect prominent closing down signs in the windows of the city centre premises.
Announcing to customers that 'Everything must go', staff informed shoppers that the store is earmarked for closure on April 28, or sooner if all the stock is sold.
At this stage it appears unlikely that HMV will seek another premises in Belfast.
HMV's former owners Hilco called in administrators from KPMG just after Christmas, putting 2,200 jobs at risk.
It was the second time the music giant had flled for administration in recent years.
The retailer's stores in the Republic did not survive the last administration process in 2013, leaving Belfast as its sole remaining offering on the island.
HMV Belfast's landlord Ashley had been linked in January to a serious bid to add the entertainment chain to his expanding high street portfolio, which now includes Sports Direct and House of Fraser, along with stakes in Debenhams and French Connection. In the end it was expanding Canadian music franchise Sunrise Records which acquired the majority of the HMV business and assets out of administration, including the Belfast outlet.
It was initially announced that the deal would result in the closure of 27 HMV stores across the UK, including its flagship Oxford Street premises in London.
But it is understood that Sunrise Records has struck a number of deals with landlords in recent weeks to reopen nine shuttered stores.
According to Sunrise, no deal has yet been possible in Belfast.
HMV's London headquarters confirmed that the planned closure of its Donegall Arcade store is directly linked to a fall-out over terms with the landlord.
Sports Direct was contacted for a comment. None was forthcoming at the time of going to press.
Speaking last month when the rescue deal was first announced, Putman described HMV as the "most iconic music and entertainment business in the UK".
He said: "By catering to music and entertainment lovers, we are incredibly excited about the opportunity to engage customers with a diverse range of physical format content and replicate our success in Canada.
"We know the physical media business is here to stay and we greatly appreciate all the support from the suppliers, landlords, employees and, most importantly, our customers."