HMV Group, which includes HMV entertainment stores and the Waterstones bookseller chain marginally increased sales in the last half it announced today. The retailer is moving towards becoming an online retailer to rival the iStore from Apple.

Like for like sales were flat from the same period last year, but total sales increased from £729 million in 2007 to £754m this year.

The HMV chain has been hit by the popularity of the iStore service from iPod manufacturer Apple and has been moving towards becoming an online music and video retailer. Its downloads and streaming web service went live this year and in its trading statement HMV chief executive Simon Fox was confident of the group’s abilities to perform well online over Christmas and into next year. “Our stores and websites are very well placed for Christmas and we are confident our customers will receive great service and product availability, however they choose to shop,” he said.

Fox shrugged off the demise of high street store and entertainment wholesale provider Woolworths and believes HMV will benefit in the medium term. The Waterstones bookshop chain became the exclusive online source for e-books compatible with the Sony Reader, which was launched in the UK this year.

Away from the high street HMV Group began trials of its new BookHub for Waterstones, a centralised supply chain centre operated by distribution provider Unipart. Last year HMV centralised its back office and IT functions for its UK and Ireland operations, which delivered savings of £6m.

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