HMV forced to close as Sports Direct moves to Princes Street

HMV has been on Princes Street for 40 years. Picture; Greg Macvean

HMV has been on Princes Street for 40 years. Picture; Greg Macvean

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MUSIC chain HMV is being forced to quit its Princes Street store after Sports Direct bought the premises.

The sports shop group – heavily criticised by a House of Commons committee over its working practices – has agreed a deal to acquire the property at 129-130 Princes Street from previous owners Lancashire County Pension Fund.

HMV said its current store would close in September, but it hoped to find other premises in the Capital soon.

Mike Ashley, the billionaire boss of Sports Direct, was hauled before the Commons’ business, innovation and skills committee to be questioned about working practices, including staff being penalised for taking a break to drink water and for taking time off when ill. They were also searched as they left work.

The committee said workers were treated as “commodities” rather than as human beings, and chairman Iain Wright likened the conditions to those of a Victorian workhouse.

Property firm CBRE said it had sold the Princes Street store – which extends to around 20,500 sq ft over four levels – on behalf of Lancashire County Pension Fund to Sports Direct.

Callum Mortimer, director in CBRE’s retail team, said: “It is great news that we’ve been able to secure the sale of this prominent unit for our client. Sports Direct is a very well-known and popular brand and will be a welcome addition to the retail offering on Princes Street.”

But Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay warned that the company had to bring in better conditions for staff.

He said trade unions had been working for years to expose the working practices as Sports Direct.

“It’s their campaigning that got Mike Ashley before the House of Commons select committee and blew the gaff on what had been happening,” he said.

“What we are looking for now is for this company to change its practices so it can become a good employer rather than one of the worst.

“People in Edinburgh will be watching very carefully and will want to make sure people are employed fairly and are not exploited.”

Sports Direct has stores at Fort Kinnaird and Straiton. It used to have one in the St James Centre and earlier this year announced plans for one at Ocean Terminal.

The Princes Street HMV branch was among 141 across the UK which survived after the firm went into administration in 2013.

HMV chief executive Ian Topping said: “The HMV store on Princes Street will unfortunately be closing in September as a result of a change of ownership of the property.

“Edinburgh is a very important location for HMV and we are hoping to find an alternative site in the coming weeks so that we can continue to serve our many loyal customers as we have for the last 40 years in the city.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com