HMV hopes to weather storm with festive lift

DVD to books retailer HMV Group said that its all-important Christmas trading period has been hit by the recent Arctic weather conditions.

Chief executive Simon Fox said that the severe weather over the past two weeks has resulted in reduced customer numbers.

HMV, which also owns the Waterstone's book chain, has recently branched out into new areas in a bid to overcome its internet rivals.

In 2009 it relaunched the music downloading site HMV Digital, which is similar to iTunes. It has also expanded into music festivals.

The group made a pre-tax loss of 41.3m in the six months to October 23, compared with a loss of 24.9m a year earlier, after HMV UK and Ireland sales slumped by 16 per cent.

Relying on the 60 per cent of sales it sees during the crucial festive period, HMV hopes a strong line of Christmas products such as new DVD releases Sex and the City 2, Toy Story 3 and Shrek 4, new albums from Take That and Cheryl Cole and new books by Michael Macintyre, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson will boost sales.

Mr Fox said: "The changes that we have made to our business have been against the backdrop of difficult entertainment markets, particularly games, which underperformed against our expectations."

He said that HMV's sales have plunged amid "a weak entertainment market", with games impacted particularly badly.

The summer football World Cup also slowed the pipeline of new releases earlier in the year.

HMV now aims to expand its product mix.

There will be an increased focus on technology, with the introduction of Apple's IPad tablet device and other new entertainment related gadgets to help boost sales.

In order to compete with rival music downloading sites, HMV said it wants to become a broad-based entertainment brand, selling new products such as mobile phones and Blu-ray discs.

The group has 412 HMV stores and 311 Waterstone's outlets in the UK and Ireland.