British retailer WHSmith has sought to distance itself from persistent rumours that it is poised to head back into the DVD business.
Following HMV’s move into administration in January, some WHSmith stores are stocking DVDs and CDs in significant numbers.
“They’re definitely (back) in the entertainment business,” said one leading UK distributor who has recently sold one of his company’s major titles through WHSmith.
“In the past, they weren’t really stocking DVDs.”
He suggested that Smith’s public wariness was because the company “just don’t want to make a big public thing” about its resumption of DVD sales.
Contacted by Screen, a WHSmith spokesman gave an equivocal response to the reports the company is heading back into the home entertainment market.
The spokesman said: “Our position has not changed. We have always said we will continue to offer a convenience offer in stores where there is customer demand, and entertainment has remained in around 300 stores over the past few years.
“Following HMV’s announcements, you would expect us to re-look at our offer on a store-by-store basis. However, entertainment will continue to represent a very small proportion of our business and will not be material.”
WHSmith CEO Kate Swann, who is stepping down in the summer, has steered the retailer away from DVD and CD retail on the grounds that it is a low margin business.
However, given the problems at HMV and Blockbuster, some analysts see a gap in the DVD market that WHSmith may now be able to exploit.
In 2012, WHSmith, which specialises in books, ebooks magazines, stationery and gifts, had a tiny 0.5% of the UK’s DVD market in value.
If the retailer does resume DVD sales in earnest, it will be a major boost to UK film distributors.
The sector was already heartened by the news last week that investment company Gordon Brothers Europe had bought 264 Blockbuster stores out of administration, saving 2,000 jobs.