Troubled U.K. retail giant Woolworths Group saw its losses narrow during the six months to Aug. 4.
The group issued financial figures today as it announced plans to become a major digital-entertainment service provider. The household goods-to-entertainment multiple retailer recorded a half-year loss of £59.2 million ($118.2 million), an improvement on the £66.8 million ($133.4 million) lost during the same period last year. Total group sales jumped 16.1% to £1.14 billion ($2.28 billion).
Its key retail division, including recorded music sales, also saw a decline in losses, to £47.7 million ($95.3 million). In the first six months of 2006, it had reported a £64.5 million ($128.8 million) loss.
Figures from labels body the BPI gave Woolworths' 820 stores a 25.5% share of U.K. singles expenditure and 10.6% of albums spend in 2006 .
The company attributed improved business to the buoyant sales of computer games, a boost to books with the publication of the seventh Harry Potter book ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"), plus healthy movie DVD sales. However, it admits to being hurt by a "decline in the music market."
The company's statement adds that it still plans to become a major player in the online music arena after building up a digital catalog of 2.3 million tracks from major and independent labels.
"Over the past six months, the focus of our digital development has been to widen our technical and content capabilities," the company said in a statement. "We are endeavoring to build a 'digital vault' that will hold entertainment content in downloadable formats for all types of devices. We anticipate that the first [Woolworths' entertainment wholesale unit] EUK customers to offer this service will come on stream in early 2008."