Virgin Megastores U.K. & Ireland today (Jan. 12) claimed it saw total sales growth of 2.9% in the five weeks ending Jan. 7, although figures covering the second half of 2005 show sales in decline.

Virgin Megastores U.K. & Ireland today (Jan. 12) claimed it saw total sales growth of 2.9% in the five weeks ending Jan. 7, although figures covering the second half of 2005 show sales in decline.

Sales boomed in the week before Christmas, according to a statement from Virgin managing director Simon Douglas, who said that the third week of December "saw a sales increase of over 44.8% week-on-week, which was stunning."

Total sales for the five weeks were £93.6 million ($164.84 million), up from £91 million ($160 million) over the same period in 2004/2005.

Like-for-like stores sales (including online sales) were up 3.1% to £82.1 million ($144 million). Rival HMV's Christmas trading figures for the same period, also published Jan. 12, showed a 5.5% like-for-like sales drop. HMV did not publish a value figure.

Virgin claims DVD sales rose 4.8% in value on a like-for-like basis over the five weeks. The company also says its like-for-like games sales were up 32%, boosted by key hardware coming onto the U.K. market. Music sales rose 0.1%.

Virgin also published figures for the 10 weeks, 26 weeks and 36 weeks ending Jan. 7. They showed total year-on-year sales declines of 0.1%, 9.3% and 5.1% respectively. Analysis of those figures gives a comparison between Virgin's U.K. & Ireland sales for the 26 weeks ended Oct. 29 and HMV's for the same period.
HMV's half-year figures for the 26 weeks ending Oct. 29 showed a year-on-year drop of 4.5% to £365.9 million ($644 million). Billboard.biz analysis shows that Virgin's total sales for that period were down 9.2% to £156.7 million ($257 million).

However, on a like-for-like basis, Virgin's 26-week sales were down only 0.92% at £140 million ($246 million), compared to HMV's like-for-like fall of 12.1%.

Virgin Megastores U.K. & Ireland had 123 stores at the end of 2005, down from 134 in 2004. At Oct. 29, 2005, HMV U.K. & Ireland had 218, up from 193 on the same date in 2004.

In his statement, Douglas acknowledges Virgin faces a tough year in 2006, particularly with its key outlets in London's West End district. "As well documented," he said, "the West End has really suffered since the 7/7 bombings, and with increase in congestion charges, public transport fares and attractive out of town retail parks, the West End will remain a challenge."

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