Sainsbury decides to stop selling CDs and DVDs as streaming dominates market

CD Sales

Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s says it has decided to stop selling CDs and DVDs as streaming services take their toll on sales of the products.

A spokesperson said Sainsbury’s customers increasingly went for music and films online instead of buying the shiny silver discs.

The firm said sales were being phased out, although it would continue to sell vinyl records in some stores.

CD sales have shrunk in the past decade but were still worth £115m last year.

Other big supermarkets show no sign of following Sainsbury’s lead, with larger branches of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons still stocking a range of CDs and DVDs.

“Our customers increasingly go online for entertainment, so earlier this year we took the decision to gradually phase out the sale of DVDs and CDs, so that we can dedicate extra space to food and popular products like clothing and homewares,” Sainsbury’s said.

The decision is another sign that the CD, once the dominant means of buying and selling recorded music, is long past its heyday.

With sales hit first by the MP3 music file, then by streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, the silver disc is now seen as unfashionable in many circles.

Worse still, the format that it was designed to kill off, the vinyl record, has enjoyed a resurgence, with UK sales climbing to 4.8 million last year, bringing in revenue of more than £86m.

That was still well short of the money brought in by CDs. But according to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the value of record sales in 2021 is expected to surpass that of CDs for the first time since the late 1980s.

“The CD has proved exceptionally successful for nearly 40 years and remains a format of choice for many music fans who value sound quality, convenience and collectability,” said a BPI spokesperson.

“Although demand has been following a long-term trend as consumers increasingly transition to streaming, resilient demand is likely to continue for many years, enhanced by special editions and other collectible releases.

“If some retailers now see the format as less of a priority, this will create a further opportunity for others, such as independent shops and specialist chains such as HMV, to cater to the continuing demand.”

Out of fashion

Music industry observer Graham Jones points out that supermarkets have always carried a very limited selection of CDs, with an emphasis on big names such as Ed Sheeran.

But as his book Last Shop Standing makes clear, the supermarkets could still make life difficult for record shops, especially by undercutting them on price.

In one chapter, he recounts an incident from 2008, when a shop in the East Midlands found that rather than ordering copies of the latest Coldplay CD from the record company, it was cheaper to buy them on special offer from Morrisons and Asda and resell them.

However, such incidents are unlikely to be repeated these days.

“Sales of CDs are slowing down, so I can understand why Sainsbury’s are pulling out, really,” he told the BBC.

“Vinyl is incredibly fashionable and the CD has gone out of fashion.

“A lot of indies [independent shops] may be stocking less CDs than they used to, but they’re still selling. There’s this myth that the CD is completely dead.”