High street retailer Woolworths has blamed DVD piracy forcontributing to disappointing trading results over the Christmas period.

Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones told The DailyTelegraph that Woolworths was particularly hit by DVD piracy, losing £1.5m ofsales on some individual titles.

The latest Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban,released in November, sold 770,000 units in its first two days, compared withthe 1.6m units that the previous Harry Potter title achieved.

"The Harry Potter franchise may not be quiteas strong but everything suggested that the latest Harry Potter shouldhave flown off the shelves." That it didn't is down to "replicationplants in China pumping out counterfeits", said Mr Bish-Jones.

A spokesperson for Woolworths told ScreenDaily.comthat other blockbusters such as Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 alsofailed to live up to expectations and that piracy was a contributor.

She said she believed piracy was a contributor behind thedip, as sales of lower-profile DVDs, which are less likely to be illegallycopied, had held up well. In particular, DVD sales of TV shows such as LittleBritain 'did incredibly well'.

Bish- Jones also explained that canny shoppers delayedtheir Christmas spending to the last minute in the hope of picking up a bargainin the post-Christmas sales. 'The consumer is very, very savvy these days,' headded.

The company said sales at its 800 high street outletswere flat in the four weeks to the turn of the year. Profits before tax,goodwill and exceptional items for the year to January 29 are expected to be ona par with the previous year around £70m.

That is below the forecasts of City analysts, who werelooking at up to £77m.

See this week's edition of Screen International for amajor investigation into anti-piracy campaigns around the world.

Screen International is also holding a majorconference on piracy, The European Film Piracy Summit, on Jan 11.