Belfast Telegraph

HMV hoping to stay in Belfast store as landlord negotiations continue

Closing: HMV in Belfast
Closing: HMV in Belfast
Mike Ashley
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

HMV has said it wants to retain a store in Belfast despite the potential closure of its city centre premises.

The entertainment retailer, which was rescued from administration by Canada's Sunrise Records last month, is locked in a stalemate over the lease of its Donegall Arcade branch with landlord Sports Direct.

The company, owned by Mike Ashley, bought the retail hub since 2015.

As it stands, HMV has said it is closing the three-floor superstore on April 28, with staff erecting posters informing shoppers on Wednesday.

HMV managing director Neil Taylor said the music chain wanted to remain in Donegall Arcade for as long as possible.

However, he also revealed yesterday that the terms being discussed with the landlord were not viable in the long term.

HMV has said that should the Donegall Arcade store close, it will seek another premises in the city centre, but with no premises or alternative lease arrangements in place, it is possible that the music chain will be absent from the Belfast high street for an indefinite period.

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"Having an HMV store in Belfast is very important to us, as it is a busy and vibrant city and we have always had great feedback from our customers," said Mr Taylor.

"We would very much like to remain in our current location for as long as possible.

"However, the terms being discussed with the landlord currently don't provide for a long-term viable store in Belfast.

"We remain extremely keen to come to an agreement that avoids the need to close such an important store for us and we are very open to finding a deal that works for both ourselves and the landlord.

"Sadly if we are unable to come to agreement, we will be forced to close the Donegall Arcade store towards the end of April and look for premises elsewhere in the city, which will be a great shame, not only for our loyal customers but also the superb team of staff at this store."

A source at HMV yesterday described the negotiations with Sports Direct as "fluid" and changing hour-by-hour, suggesting that a breakthrough could still be possible.

He said all energies were being put into the negotiations, adding: "When that is exhausted, we'll have to look at what the alternatives are".

Large retail spaces in the city centre have been in high demand since the fire at Primark in August last year.

Meanwhile, Mike Ashley's retail footprint in the city centre continues to grow.

After acquiring Donegall Arcade in 2015, he bought House of Fraser out of administration in August 2018 in a deal that included its flagship 120,000 sq ft store in Victoria Square.

Sports Direct has yet to comment on its ongoing negotiations with HMV in Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph