Jobs at risk at troubled entertainment chain

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of jobs were under threat at entertainment retailer ChoicesUK today after the group admitted it had failed to secure the future of the ailing business.

ChoicesUK, which has its HQ in Peterborough and employs around 1,800 people, said attempts to sell the firm or strike a refinancing deal had fallen through and administrators would now be called in "as soon as possible".

The news comes as ChoicesUK has struggled amid a declining market for CDs and DVDs.

The firm, which has around 170 stores across the UK, warned in April that it would see bigger-than-expected losses, despite launching a swingeing cost-cutting drive. The stores continued to trade today.

ChoicesUK has already cut more than 250 jobs since last September as part of a drive to save over £6 million, which also saw the closure of dozens of loss-making stores.

The firm said recently it had been "plagued" by piracy in the music and entertainment industry, with rental business in particular suffering from the availability of pirated new titles long before their legitimate release date.

In the company's last annual report, former chairman and major shareholder Iain Muspratt called on the Government to "react more positively if they wish legitimate businesses in the sector to prosper".

Other high street firms have also fallen victim to tough trading conditions in the entertainment industry, with piracy adding to increased competition from internet retailers, digital downloading and supermarkets.

Independent music retailer Fopp went into administration at the end of June, with 700 staff made redundant as a result.

HMV has also battled with declining performance, reporting in June that pre-tax profits more than halved from £98.2 million to £48.1 million in the year to April 28.

ChoicesUK reported pre-tax losses of £2.9 million in the six months to February 10 and said in April that business deteriorated further in the spring as unseasonably hot weather earlier this year hit vital DVD and computer game rental business.

Shares in the group have dived in recent months, dropping by more than two thirds in value since April.

ChoicesUK, which floated on the stock market in 2001, operates a mail order business for videos and DVDs, called ChoicesUK.com, alongside its high street presence.

It was launched in 1985 by Mr Muspratt and co-founders Diane Gardner and Geoffrey Hopkins.

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