800 Xtra-vision staff get lifeline as HMV investor buys up stores
MORE than 800 staff at Xtra-vision have been thrown a lifeline after a British investment firm bought the retailer.
Hilco, which has also bought the Irish arm of HMV, said it had agreed a deal to take the troubled DVD chain out of receivership.
The deal safeguards Xtra-vision's immediate future, although it has yet to be decided if all the company's branches will be kept open for the long term.
Hilco is believed to be in discussions with the landlords and suppliers of Xtra-vision before it makes a final decision on how many stores will be retained.
In a statement, Hilco confirmed the deal, describing Xtra-vision as "one of Ireland's best known retail brands and has a leading position in rental and retail of both film and games".
The company also has a "growing presence in music, mobile telephony, a range of consumer electronic products and confectionery," Hilco added yesterday.
Gerry Butler, the former commercial director of the defunct retailer Blockbuster in the UK, will head the new business.
Hilco's Irish boss Larry Howard said the final transfer of stores would take place gradually as deals are worked out with landlords.
"We have had supportive messages from a number of landlords and we are hopeful that we will be able to retain all of the stores which we have agreed to acquire," he said.
Xtra-vision went into receivership last April after trade credit was withdrawn by a number of its key suppliers.
Founded in 1979 by Richard Murphy, it is one of the most familiar brands in the country.
It had over 400,000 customers but had fallen on hard times because of weak consumer spending and an explosion in internet streaming and downloading that has caused huge disruption among main street retailers.
At the time the retailer employed more than 1,000 staff across 152 stores. That has since fallen back to 800 staff across 130 stores.
This is Hilco's latest venture into the retail business in Ireland. It has already taken over HMV's business here, as well as in the UK and Canada.
On Monday it revealed plans to hire 100 staff for HMV here as it prepared to open four stores in Dublin and Limerick just months after the chain shut down operations here with the loss of all staff.
Record stores at Henry Street, Liffey Valley and Dundrum Town centres in Dublin, and in the Crescent Shopping Centre in Limerick are set to reopen within weeks after deals between new HMV owner Hilco and landlords.
A former landmark store on Grafton Street is not included and the property is currently on the rental market.
Hilco bought HMV's business here and in Britain for about €59m in April. Staff who lost their jobs when the retailer closed its doors here have been encouraged to apply for the new jobs.