U.K. entertainment retailer HMV is launching its first temporary stores for the Christmas trading period.

"We opened the first one last weekend in Bluewater and the next four open in Saturday (Oct. 24)," HMV Group chief executive Simon Fox tells Billboard.biz.

As previously reported, the retailer is taking temporary leases in towns that currently lack a retail entertainment presence from October, as well as a few sites where there is enough demand for a second store. It follows the demise of rival chain Zavvi and mass merchant Woolworths at the beginning of 2009.

"HMV is planning to open 10 short-lease retail locations over the next few days and weeks to cover the festive period through to January 2010," said Mark Bowles, property director at HMV & Waterstone's, in a statement. "Sites are still being finalized, but one of the higher profile ones that is already open is in the Bluewater shopping center. Other sites under active consideration are Loughborough, Burnley, Bury, Hartlepool, Welwyn Garden City, Bedford, Lewisham, Andover and Torquay."

The Bluewater shopping center, outside London in Kent, has an existing permanent HMV store elsewhere on the site.

"The [temporary] sites are made up of a mix of locations - a few where HMV is currently trading, and the units will effectively act as 'spillover' locations to help cater to the massive surge in gifting demand that we see at this time of year, but most are in 'greenfield' locations where HMV does not currently operate," said Bowles. "We're conscious that with the unfortunate demise of Woolies and Zavvi there are now quite a few population centers without an entertainment offer this Christmas, and we feel that we would like to cater to this demand."

Some of the temporary leases may well be extended to a more permanent basis, according to Bowles.

"It's not something we've tried before, but with property management companies keen to make unused retail space available to major brands during the run up to Christmas, we felt it was an opportunity that we should explore," he said. "We might look at extending the leases in some cases to a more permanent basis if we can get the right terms and if we feel the location will offer a viable, sustainable demand over the longer term."

The range in the temporary stores will focus mainly on chart and new release and key gifting titles rather than catalogue."

HMV issued a trading update for the 18 weeks ended Aug. 29 (Billboard.biz, Sept. 3), 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%.

HMV unveiled its hmvcurzon cinema at its Wimbledon, south London branch yesterday (Oct. 21).