HMV hopes Dido and Kylie will boost sales

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The Independent Online

A strong performance in the UK helped the books to music retailer HMV report a 1.8 per cent rise in group sales for the first 21 weeks of the year, according to a trading update released yesterday.

Sales at the group's music stores in the UK and Ireland rose 6.5 per cent in the period to 20 September on the back of like-for-like growth and through an increase in store numbers.

The company said that gross margin had also been "maintained at last year's levels".

Like-for-like sales growth at Waterstones also improved by 5.1 per cent with the latest instalment of the Harry Potter series, predictably, the outstanding performer

Alan Giles, HMV's chief executive, said that the book market had been "reasonable" but that improvements had been made across a number of areas including stock management and customer service while Waterstones had also benefited from using successful promotional ideas from HMV.

The company said that it planned to open a further 12 HMV stores before the all-important Christmas period.

Mr Giles said that the second half of the year, which includes Christmas, typically accounts for about 90 per cent of group operating profits as margins tended to be more robust.

Mr Giles said that the company had "a strong release schedule" for Christmas, "particularly in DVD", which is the clearest area of growth within the company's stores,

The major DVD releases include Terminator3, Matrix Reloaded and, for the first time on the format, the Indiana Jones trilogy.

The company also hoped that the release of Robbie Williams' CD of his live concert at Knebworth from earlier in the year and albums from Dido and Kylie Minogue would help boost CD sales over the Christmas period.

The performance at HMV in UK and Ireland was partially offset by continued difficult trading in North America, where the company expected to close further stores gradually over the next 12 months. The company now has just seven stores in the US with the large bulk of their 100-strong portfolio in Canada. Overall sales in North America fell by 14.7 per cent in the period and like-for-likes were down 4.5 per cent, principally due to the continuing contraction in CD sales. The shares closed down 1p at 159p.