Woolworths to stop selling CD singles

Could spell end to the format in Britain

LONDON -- British supermarkets giant Woolworths is axing the CD single from its inventory, claiming consumers are no longer interested in the format.

CD singles will be pulled from Woolworths' shelves with effect from August, though there will be an exception in one-off big event releases, the company said Monday.

The publicly listed retailer Woolworth counterbalanced its announcement with the news that it has launched a new digital download store for entertainment product, which it hopes will rake in those disenfranchised CD buyers who now look for their music online.

Woolworths' decision to kill off CD singles might well sound the death knell for the struggling format across Britain. The company is recognized as the biggest player in the business of selling singles in the country. Figures from labels body the BPI gave Woolworths' 820 stores a 25.5% share of U.K. singles expenditure in 2006.

The company cites a broader malaise for the format, noting just 8 million CD singles were bought in the United Kingdom last year, compared to 55 million in 2000.

In a statement, Woolworths commercial director Jim Batchelor comments: "Everyone remembers buying their first record at Woolworths, which is why there is a degree of sadness in today's announcement. The reality is though that more and more people can't remember the last time they purchased a CD single. But music and songs are still such a huge part of people's lives. They now choose to access both new and old music through downloading."

The new download site at www.woolworthsdownload.com is built on digital delivery platform the Digital Vault, which has been developed by Woolworths' Entertainment U.K. wholesale division in liaison with RealNetworks Inc.

The company is confident its revamped download offering is unique in the market place, with a licensed catalog comprising more than 1.2 million music tracks, more than 1,000 film and TV shows, games and mobile content. Tracks will be available in a mix of WMA and MP3 format.

"We believe Woolies is very much part of the singles chart's future as well as its history which is why we have launched what we believe is an excellent digital download site," Batchelor adds. "Our customers can now buy their tracks online and enjoy their music digitally."

In a promotional launch for the service, the top 10 music tracks will cost 59 pence ($1.16) for the first week, while all other tracks will be priced from 77 pence ($1.52). The top 10 albums cost 6.99 pounds ($13.82) for the same period, with all other albums priced from 7.97 pounds ($15.75). Blockbusters such as "Spider-Man 3" and "Superbad" also will be available, with film and TV prices starting at 97 pence ($1.91), while mobile content will start from 1.50 pounds ($2.96).