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Ask Slashdot: How To Make a DVD-Rental Store More Relevant? 547 writes "Here on Slashdot, the concept that older models of business need to be updated to keep with the times is often mentioned. A friend of mine owns a DVD rental store, and he often listens to potential customers walk out, saying that they'd rather download the movie, and not because his prices are unreasonable. With the local telco on a project to boost internet speeds, my friend feels as though the end is near for his livelihood. So, Slashdotters, I put it to you: What can a DVD store owner do to make his store more relevant? What services would you pay for at a DVD store?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Make a DVD-Rental Store More Relevant?

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  • Stop renting DVD's (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hawks5999 ( 588198 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:26PM (#42019443)
    Time to find a new business. He's a buggy whip salesman in the era of automobiles.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caution live frogs ( 1196367 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:32PM (#42019497)

    The only possible way to survive is to develop a niche. Streaming services are usually pretty good for recent movies, but a lot of back catalogue stuff is hard to find. Specialize in the stuff that's out of print, rare, etc. But really, I'm hard-pressed to see how that business model would be sustainable as a primary income source in most communities. There simply isn't enough demand for the content, especially given the huge amount of material available through Netflix's mail catalogue.

  • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:33PM (#42019503) Homepage Journal

    Additionally, the business owner probably has a particular set of skills which could be applied to a business with a tailwind, rather than one with a headwind. They should spend their energy figuring out what that next business or project is.

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:37PM (#42019573)

    Well, people who come to a DVD shop presumably want to rent DVDs...which means that perhaps they're not comfortable with the latest tech, even if - as you quote - many say they would rather download the film. My experience with DVD shops has been that they are pretty miserable places, which make most of their profit from overdue fees.

    Make a comfy place with 'cult' DVDs to hire, plus give advice on ways to upgrade your home cinema. Sell overpriced coffee.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:53PM (#42019719)
    This seems awfully risky, since there is nothing stopping netflix or amazon from licensing any particular catalogue of movies at any time. Will there still be movies available on DVD but unavailable via streaming even five years from now?


    Moreover the business strategy of serving the long tails [] as you suggested requires a vast catalog, which places the fixed expense of physical media at a big immediate disadvantage.

  • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:55PM (#42019745) Homepage

    What kind of nutbags start a job without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement?

    How about that, there is such a thing as a stupid question.

    Answer #1: Any professional with any ambition at all. Collective bargaining agreements are a noose around the neck of anybody with the ambition to better themselves.

    Answer #2: Any unskilled employee who'd like to have a paycheck if they live in a right to work state where "at will" employment predominates. Which unsurprisingly happens to be the states with the lowest unemployment rates right now.

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:58PM (#42019781)

    Slashdot isn't the best place to ask because most of us have bought into digital distribution. We are unlikely to be the video store's target audience so we aren't the best people to ask.

    Your friend also has some challenges because copyright laws limit his options. A lot of things that could be done would be illegal or require a lot of paperwork because it would be considered a public showing (e.g. previews, a showing room for private events).

    Yet they may be able to transition their business if they are into film. This could be tied to tangible products or people oriented. They could try to sell the hardware to show movies, provide a forum to discuss them, or even provide a hub for people who want to produce independent films.

    There are a lot of other ways to adapt. The key though is to talk to the people who matter: the customers who would actually use the service.

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:04PM (#42019821)

    Or provide movies that can be downloaded but partner with the local pizza place. Suddenly you can order pizza and a movie and get it delivered to your door in a shorter or equivalent time that the download takes.
    Now the customer only have to visit one page to save the evening instead of two.
    Add an option to buy the movie instead of renting it and the customer won't have to make the trip to return it.

    Providing better service than the competition is another way to stay relevant, you don't really have to niche yourself.

  • by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <> on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:20PM (#42019941) Homepage

    Judging by what happened to Hostess, anyone who actually wants to keep that job.

    You mean how Hostess tripled their CEO's pay and raised other exec's salaries, while cutting worker's pay and benefits?

    Stop drinking the far right's Kool Aid. It's not unions that are killing companies like Hostess, it's vulture capitalists.

  • by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:26PM (#42019997)

    I agree, DVD renting as business is on the way out. in the not-too-far future there will be too few customers to keep him in business.

    It's not just the customers needed to keep him in business, DVD Rental is dependant on the Movie Publishing houses wanting to rent DVD's and so allowing them to be licensed for rental.

    With all that lovely, easily updatable DRM they can load into streamed movies, I think the publishers will stop licensing DVD's as soon as the streaming market has developed enough.

    That leaves the owner spending time and money trying to make his store relevant to his customers only to have his product pulled from under him.

  • Re:Hey Guys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:33PM (#42020067) Journal
    Yes - work on that crazy niche of people who will still be buying horse whips in the crazy year 2012 when most people are riding their jetpacks to the moon. Those who enjoy riding horses for pleasure, the horse racing industry etc. Also never forget rule 34 - there will always be a niche sexual element to any product, so make sure you target the BDSM market with some classy designs.

    Same for physical DVD rental. Target those who don't just want to watch a film, but those who want to have a real life experience around it. Hold the equivalent of a book club, promote one DVD a week that all your members can rent for, say, 1 penny, then hold a weekly get-together to discuss the film. Promote the art-house side of things, quirky foreign films, all the things that are tucked away on the NetFlix submenus. Hell, why not, hold a singles evening once a month, there's plenty of single film nerds out there.
  • by SteveFoerster ( 136027 ) <steve AT stevefoerster DOT com> on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:37PM (#42020093) Homepage

    I'm happy to stipulate that any executive who accepts a pay raise the same year their workers get a cut is a scumbag. But ultimately it was union negotiators who allowed the company to go under. Maybe they thought having no job is better than a having a shitty job working for assholes, and that killing off a company that can't or won't take care of its employees is a message worth sending. If so I'd actually respect that, but I haven't seen that's how this is being reported.

  • Re:Hey Guys (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hduff ( 570443 ) <<hoytduff> <at> <>> on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:28PM (#42020551) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, unless you have access to a time machine, I think DVD stores (of any kind) are not great ideas anymore.

    He would need to fulfill the needs that the online services can't or won't fill, namely hard-core and fetish porn. That's about all that's left to him.

  • by Etcetera ( 14711 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @03:55PM (#42021307) Homepage

    "a customer list, knowledge of movies and location" sounds like a perfect mixture of what you need.

    A lot of suggestions on here are emphasizing the physical connection and shared experience, but I'd shy away from the "become the NPR book club experience for indie movies" direction. People still go to movie theatres after all, and not just the art-house ones. Keep your focus on the mainstream local customer market.

    My thoughts?

    1) Make it very easy to browse. Apple spent a b unch of money working on "Album Cover" browse mode, and Netflix tries to micro-genre target for you .. try to come up with a happy medium in physicality.
    2) Emphasize the human connection -- events, specials, etc. I don't know what the location is like, but if there's a restaurant next door, come up with a dinner-and-a-movie cross promotion with them.
    3) A web-browsable catalog is nice, but you know what's faster than tapping in a name on your PS3 Netflix controller? Calling a number (assuming you're staffing your phones). Make it super easy to reach a live person, preferably one who might know you by name when you walk in. Hire movie nerds just like Gamestop hires game nerds.
    4) Use location cell services (Foursquare, Google Local or whatever they call it) heavily... Specials, deals, mayorships, etc...
    5) As someone else said... if you can't beat em, join em. Get high speed internet and wireless (protected, with daily changing keys that are on the receipt or something) and set up some areas for people to deal with streaming services. Maybe get a Red Box and stick it *inside* your store -- I have no idea on pricing, but see if you can set the price for it somewhere above the default.
    6) Upsell with food/drinks just like Blockbuster did.
    7) Don't try to undercut yourself out of business by lowering price, but offer meaningful loyalty rewards. It's more important to *keep customers coming back* than to make high profits off each one.

    Good luck!

  • Re:Hey Guys (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @04:37PM (#42021653) Journal

    Same. thing. Rent the dirtiest, most perverted porn that it legal in your jurisdiction and you have a small chance. And a very discreet entrance.

  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @06:30PM (#42022299)

    "The CEO's pay had exactly nothing to do with the demise of the company..."

    I think this is the crux of the matter. The CEOs got their pay and bonuses and pay raises regardless of the outcome of the labor negotiations. They got this even if the company failed. The only thing they gave up was the right to loot the company for more dollars in the future but they probably figured that the company was done for and they couldn't get more out of it. They will happily move on to the next victim (see: Bain Capital).

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"