The home entertainment market, including Blu-ray, remains healthy despite difficult trading conditions across the retail sector according to figures released by the British Video Association.

The figures show that 1.5 million Blu-ray discs were sold in December alone, up almost 400% against the same period in 2007. In total 3.7 million Blu-ray discs were sold in 2008.

Speaking to Richard Cooper, a video analyst at Screen Digest, said 'Given the current economic climate we expected far less people to upgrade (to Blu-ray). It's certainly surprising.'

The surprisingly high number of salescomes despite the relatively low sales of Blu-ray players.

Since their launch in 2007, just under 200,000 stand alone Blu-ray players have sold in the UK, with November 2008 sales accounting for over 25% of that figure. In 2008 sales of the Play Station 3 players, (which incorporate the Blu-ray software), reached one million, a 10% increase on 2007 figures.

'We're talking about very small numbers here in a market which is used to dealing in millions,' according to Cooper.

One factor behind the low numbers of Blu-ray player sales in the UK and elsewhere in Europe has been the relative lack of availability of players. When Toshiba dropped out of the format race in February 2008, Blu-ray manufacturers Sony focussed available product in territories such as Japan and the US where uptake of HD and HD ready televisions stood at 40% as compared to 33% in the UK and an average of 25% across Europe.

However availability of players now seems to be increasing faster than previously predicted, and future sales will be encouraged by entry level prices in the UK of between $146 and $292 as compared to over $1000 a year ago.

'There has been a drop of more than one third from the launch price two years ago. We didn't see the same drop in DVDs for four to five years,' added Cooper.

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association, said: 'The growth in disc sales throughout 2008 reveals that the home entertainment market is showing resilience in a difficult economic climate.

'The demise of EUK and Woolworths had an impact on pre-Christmas trading. But we are not surprised that home entertainment is bearing up well; as people tighten their belts, many have rejected more extravagant outings in favour of a cosy evening at home with their favourite titles.'