HMV to open temporary stores

Looking at as many as 15 locations for Christmas holiday

LONDON -- U.K. entertainment retailer HMV is planning to open as many as 15 temporary stores for the Christmas trading period.

HMV Group CEO Simon Fox said the retailer will take temporary leases in towns that lack a retail entertainment presence from October. It follows the demise of rival chain Zavvi and mass merchant Woolworths at the beginning of 2009.

"We've acquired 29 stores over the last few months, most of them former Zavvi locations, and it's obviously very sad what happened, but what we are doing at the moment is planning for Christmas, and it will be the first Christmas obviously in the U.K. without a Woolworths, without a Zavvi, so we are looking to take some temporary store locations for the Christmas period as well as the permanent sites we have just taken," Fox said. "We are working hard to make the most of the Christmas opportunity."

Although no locations have been specified, Fox said he wants to have HMV in about 15 temporary sites.

"These would be towns in the U.K. where there is now no high street entertainment presence, which may possibly not justify an entertainment presence all year round but which certainly does justify one for the 12 key trading weeks," he said. "We haven't announced which towns we will be looking at but they will be midsize towns where there isn't currently an HMV."

He adds, "Given the current number of high street vacant retail properties, it's not that difficult. There is a certain complexity but I think we are quite good operators and we will make it happen, we've got a robust supply chain, we've got a good operations team, so we've got a route to making it happen."

Fox said he is confident of like-for-like sales growth in 2009 compared with the previous year. It follows a trading update for the 18 weeks ended Aug. 29, which showed that HMV U.K. and Ireland is benefiting from its market dominance, with total sales up 12.5% by value and like-for-like sales up 1.7%.

"We've had a good run, we had a great year last year, we announced our first 18-weeks numbers last week, we've had a decent start to our new financial year," Fox said. "So we're very much on track, but as every retailer will tell you, it's all about Christmas and the balance of the year still lies ahead. But I think we're feeling quite confident."

He also predicts "great Beatles momentum right up through Christmas" for the CD reissues and the "Rock Band" game.
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