Belfast Telegraph

End of the dog days... just one HMV outlet will stay open here

Clare Weir

High streets across Northern Ireland are now facing a future without any music stores after HMV's announcement that it would close all but one of its outlets here.

More than 100 jobs will be lost when the nine branches at Ballymena, Coleraine, Craigavon, Londonderry, Lisburn, Newry, Newtownabbey, Forestside and Boucher Road in Belfast shut within weeks.

Only the flagship Donegall Arcade branch in Belfast city centre will remain open.

The news came on the same day that Apple's iTunes Store sold its 25 billionth track and a study for the British Phonographic Industry revealed that a fifth of consumers have abandoned buying CDs and other physical media.

The new BPI figures show 27.7% of people bought downloads or used streaming services online.

HMV, which was placed into administration last month, is the latest in a line of retail giants to disappear from Northern Ireland's streets in recent months, following the likes of lingerie store La Senza, JJB Sports and camera chain Jessops.

In total, 66 of the group's 220 stores have been identified for closure across the UK with the loss of 930 staff.

No fixed date is set for the closure of the stores, which will continue to trade in the meantime.

Last week 190 jobs were lost across HMV's head office and distribution network.

East Londonderry MLA David McClarty said that the closures were the latest blow to large town centres like Coleraine and Ballymena, with HMV a major tenant in Coleraine's Diamond Centre. "People are wondering when this is going to end," he said.

"These shops are disappearing, more people are shopping online, the recession is hitting hard, people are losing their jobs so they have less money to spend in shops – it just goes on and on and there seems to be no solution.

"This isn't just Coleraine that is suffering; large towns across Northern Ireland are seeing major shopping chains disappear and that can only be harmful to the local economy."

Mr McClarty said the knock-on effects of the chain's closure will be huge and was not good news for the retailers that remain.

"To be honest, when we hear about more and more shop closures and job losses, it is not a shock or a surprise any more," he said, appealing for Stormont to do more.

Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said that the implications for smaller firms would be huge.

"This a further big loss to both our local retail sector and town centres," he said.

Era of buying music in a shop is over, say fans who loved to browse the racks

By Sarah Smyth

Saturday afternoons spent whiling hours away scouring music store shelves for the latest hits and obscure albums will become a thing of the past in towns across Northern Ireland. With HMV about to close all but one of its local shops, many music fans in our large towns will be forced to turn to downloads or mail order.

Tom Riley has shopped in HMV Lisburn at least three times a week for more than 15 years. He comes to browse, buy an album and pop it in the CD player as he drives home.

He said: "When HMV came to town I remember feeling like a whole new world was opened to me. Now I don't know what I'll do without it."

Mr Riley is one loyal HMV shopper who will soon have nowhere to go to buy music. The branch closures spell the death of the record shop in most of Northern Ireland's large towns.

"Where are we meant to go now?" asked Mr Riley (45), a factory worker from Lisburn. "People forget that there are still CD users out there. Now we're going to be ignored and will be forced into downloading music instead. It's a sad state of affairs," he said.

The Lisburn branch of HMV is one of nine stores that will shut in the coming months. Shop assistant Jason Curran (26) visits it weekly.

"Most of my teenage years were spent here. It was a real ritual, to come after school with friends. We'd look at games and CDs and spend our pocket money here," he said.

At lunchtime there was a steady stream of customers in the store.

Some were taking advantage of sale prices since the shop went into administration last month, but most were regulars. They know the staff and walked around with bundles of CDs in their arms. Ian McHenry shops in HMV almost every day. The 47-year-old bank teller described himself as a serious music fan. He has been collecting music for decades.

"I don't know what I'll do now," he said.

"I might go online, but very reluctantly. I hate the idea of losing the physical experience of buying music. And what if my computer crashes or gets a virus? Then a collection that's been built up is lost. But there's no other option. A lot of people are going to be lost without HMV."

David Adams, from Banbridge, picked up a copy of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

"That's a classic. I'll have to give this to my son," said the 53-year-old. "You'd never stumble across a great album like this online, but that's what I like about HMV."

The financial adviser added: "It's a nice environment. Within a few minutes you can find something of interest. It's a big draw for Lisburn, and the town will lose visitors without it."

Luc Fritter (20) said he'll miss the gift vouchers: "It's a great place to get birthday or Christmas presents.

"It's more than just CDs; there are DVDs, posters, cards and games. Everyone's taste is catered for. Now we'll be stuck with a rack in the supermarket that might have some new releases, but you'll be lucky to find a classic."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph