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Ask Slashdot: How To Make a DVD-Rental Store More Relevant? 547

smi.james.th 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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  • Hey Guys (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:25PM (#42019429)

    My friend manufacturers and sells horse whips. With this trend towards horseless carriages he doesn't seem to sell as many as he used to. Does anybody have any ideas on how he can increase his business?

    • Re:Hey Guys (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:32PM (#42019495)


      • Maybe the DVD store guy can start catering to perverts as well. You just don't get the same thrill when you anonymously download your stuff from the Internet. The disapproving looks and terse conversation from the person behind the counter when you go rent it really add to the overall experience. Or so I've been told.
    • Re:Hey Guys (Score:5, Funny)

      by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:44PM (#42019641)

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

      On the plus side, after reading all these comments, you'll probably have enough observations about horses and automobiles to open a stale metaphor store. It's been only a few minutes and I've already spotted five.

      • Re:Hey Guys (Score:4, Funny)

        by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:51PM (#42019705) Homepage

        Does he still do VHS tapes too...?

      • by Forbman ( 794277 )

        Go check out Movietime Videos, in McMinnville, OR and tell to their owners. Part of it is figuring out how to keep in contact with and foster those people who still want the physicalness of the video store. Part of it is being in a vibrant small town with a dense-enough rural area (but not so dense as to have cable out there). Another part probably is its a college town. And their location works.
        And yes, they have quite the catalog, too.
        Believe it or not, they don't rent porn.
        Almost worth it still for me to

    • 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.
      • Re:Hey Guys (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @05:24PM (#42021885) Homepage

        Additional thoughts:

        1. Game rental is still in its infancy online, and games are expensive. Get known for renting those.
        2. Deliver! Someone might rather wait the 3 days for Netflix delivery of things that can't be streamed, but if you can get it there in 30 minutes or less you're in great competitive shape.
        3. If you can solve the licenses, turn a section of the shop into an on-demand movie theater.

        • 1. Game rental is still in its infancy online, and games are expensive. Get known for renting those.

          Probablly not a bad idea right now for an existing buisness looking to extend it's life but be aware that this may be a short lived strategy. The technology exists to require online activation (with limited activation counts and/or fixed link to an account), all it requires is the console vendors to choose to do so and your game rental buisness is screwed.

      • 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.


        Any business model based around filling physical media with information and selling it is borked (so DVD/BluRay, books, CDs, newspapers, magazines, encylopedias, etc).

        Your friend has somehow got to provide a physical/real-world experience that makes it worth coming to the store, and then work out how to monetise that (to avoid being the place where people go to talk about the films they streamed from Netflix this week). Retail is going through the same struggle, how to avoid becoming "Amazon's Showroom

    • Actually the buggy whip business isn't dead, but has turned into a niche market. A quick google search revealed http://www.jedediahsbuggywhip.org/sales.nxg [jedediahsbuggywhip.org] which goes after the accurate period reproduction whips and repairs and has been in business since 1851. A different company has gone after the modern market with LED buggy whips (for visibility at night). The advantage is that these stores can reach a national market from a centralized location (much like Netflix).

      The real solution is to redefine th
      • 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!

        • by Marrow ( 195242 ) on Monday November 19, 2012 @01:10AM (#42024287)

          Use rfid or other tech so that when someone is leaving with movies, they are automatically logged and displayed. This is what you will be billed for starting now.
          Bill by the day.
          Make it easy to purchase the movies as an alternative to returning them. Take advantage of lazy purchasing.
          Keep a computer terminal up and locked on IMDB so people can look up the movie or find a movie they remember.
          Have three return bins. Liked it, hated it. Defective. Let your customers vote on which movies to keep in stock.
          Make it easy to order movies for purchase an put on their account. Take advantage of impulse purchasing.
          Dont ever ever ever ask them to sign up for an additional type of membership. Always a downer.
          Make it so that they never leave without a movie. Have a "are you feeling lucky" freebie movie.
          stress the importance and worth of the special features (which are unavailabe on streaming)
          Dont waste shelf space with all your titles flat. Keep one face up, the rest on edge.
          Dont be prudes
          Stock movies you would watch. Dont stock movies you could never stand to watch. Be a good place to find good movies.

    • Actually, even today, there are buggy whip manufacturers. The key is to recognize that you have a shrinking market size and that only the best and unique suppliers are going to survive. So, your friend, assuming he wants to stay in this shrinking market and intensifying competition will need to think of how he can outperform downloads. Are there services that are not provided by downloads. How about teaming up with the local pizza joint and delivering a pizza and a movie. Personalize the service and

  • 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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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 DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:33PM (#42019515) Homepage
      Shutting down a business may be a violation of the rules. What collective bargaining agreements do his employees operate under? And if not, what the fuck? What kind of nutbags start a job without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement?
      • What kind of nutbags start a job without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement?

        +1 funny

      • 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.

        • "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."

          Bullshit. How do you figure? You are always free to negotiate yourself above and beyond what your union sets for everybody. I negotiate my salary myself on union jobs ALL THE TIME, and haven't worked for the union minimum in a long long time.
    • Perhaps he could open a waterbed business.

      Or buy shares in Facebook.


    • As unfortunate as it is for your friend there Timothy, Hawks is right. I seriously do not see one single thing a DVD store owner can do to make his store more relevant for me. Here in Norway DVD stores along with record stores have practically vanished completely. Those who are still in business has turned more into regular candy stores than DVD stores.
    • 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.

      If he wants to stay in retail he has to start selling/renting things customer want to buy/rent in a brick and mortar store.

      • 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.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @11:11PM (#42023785) Homepage

          > DVD Rental is dependant on the Movie Publishing houses wanting to rent DVD's and so allowing them to be licensed for rental.

          That is pure nonsense and the sort that should not be repeated on Slashdot.

          You have the right to dispose of your property as you please. You have first sale rights. These include DVDs. There is no "mythical implied license".

          That's why physical media distributors are still in a better position relative to big content. Warner Brothers can't tell you that you're not allowed to rent their movie. They can tell you that you aren't allowed to stream their movies anymore.

          If you can buy it, then you can rent it.

    • I have to agree with this. The simple fact is that DVDs are on their way out and you just can't hang on to them forever. The few people I know who still use DVDs like to collect them, not rent them, and the rest do not care at all. This sucks for OP's friend, but well, the same thing happened with VHS as well.

  • I don't remember titles that well. One of the things I like about Netflix is to know if I have viewed a title previously and if I liked it. See http://movielens.umn.edu/html/tour/index.html [umn.edu] for an idea of what your friend should be doing.
  • 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.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

      by fiziko ( 97143 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:39PM (#42019593) Homepage

      Mod parent up.

      This is exactly what I was going to say. Provide movies that can't be downloaded. One point I'd add though: get to know your catalog and know how to help customers choose movies they'd enjoy. Some online recommendation programs work well, but others don't. If you know a lot about film, you can help people find movies they love that they'd never heard of, which will help promote repeat business.

      The difficult part is starting now. Odds are, your friend has already seen a dropoff. (Though, frankly, your friend must run a good store if he's still in business at all.) It may be difficult to buy enough titles to diversify the catalog enough to keep things going. I'd suggest starting with Criterion Collection and Kino-Lorber titles. Criterion are more expensive but have strong brand recognition. Kino Video has weaker brand recognition but lower prices, and often do great work restoring copyright expired titles. (Just check out their silent library, such as the Art of Buster Keaton box set.)

      • 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 [wired.com] as you suggested requires a vast catalog, which places the fixed expense of physical media at a big immediate disadvantage.

      • by guises ( 2423402 )
        Foreign films - incensing for streaming in different countries is often complicated, but as long as the DVD is available for your region then you can always rent it out.
      • Also, incredibly bad movies always have a certain public. Reserve a section for classics like Plan 9 and forgotten gems like Starcrash. A DVD store will never be the most pratical place to get movies, so make it the best place for people to know new movies they might enjoy.

        Know that anything you do is only a stopgap, though. The above idea might work for a while, while everyone still has DVD players, but that'll change soon enough.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by dubbreak ( 623656 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:03PM (#42019819)
        Ding ding ding ding ding. We have a winner.


        The ONLY video store I know that is still successful specializes in difficult to find material. The kicker is all their staff are avid film and movie fans and can recommend films you haven't seen, "Oh you like that director? Have you seen his little known release X? What about this director from a decade prior that was his main influence?"

        Personally I think it would be cool if rental places could do a beer growler style service. You bring a flash drive in, they drop a 1080P film on it of your choice. I like my movies in HD, but I'm no fan of BR. Of course DRM and the MPAA stands between that ever realistically happening. Why would I want such a service rather than online or a kiosk? Aside from online DL speed being slow on low compression HD videos (especially less popular ones), the same reason the as above. So I can have a human help me select something. That's where the value is added.
        • by Myopic ( 18616 ) *

          Indeed. Compare that concept to the concept of vinyl record stores. I'm not into vinyl; most people aren't into vinyl; but you can stake out the niche if you are competent and persistent. But if I had to advise the average video store owner, it would be to pack up and find a new store to open.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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

      • That is a long tail kind of market, and brick and mortar retail is generally incompatible with filling long tail demand, unless you have a very large, dense city where you can find a customer base for niche items.

    • Betamax

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Streaming services are usually pretty good for recent movies,

      What streaming services, exactly, and "pretty good for recent movies"? I've tried Netflix, and their service is abysmal. I'm serious, because I still rent a lot of DVD's from Netflix, because I can't find a decent streaming service.
    • You can do that in a University town where you've got lots and lots of new faces every year. Tucson, Az has several independent video rent places near their U of A.
    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:14PM (#42019889) Homepage

      Yep. Create a niche.

      For example, Netflix has done a poor job with their Anime catalog. If you have a local demand for that genre there will be a couple stores who sell Anime DVDs alongside other Anime products. But most folks are happy to rent a disc for $2 rather than buy it for $20.

      Create a web site linking your inventory. Allow customers to reserve and pay for disc rentals on the web site and then pick them up on the way home instead of having to hang around the store and either stand in the checkout line or find all copies of the desired movie out of stock.

      The web inventory also allows you to warehouse less popular titles so that they're available but don't consume retail space. Long tail stuff.

      Also start a policy: any disc you don't have in stock, you'll buy and rent out upon customer request. Only deal is the customer has to prepay the minimum rental before you'll order it. Place like Netflix can't handle that. They can stock a disc or not, but they can't have just one ad-hoc copy.

      There's also a decent niche for buying and selling used DVDs instead of renting them. Sell that new movie for $20 and it's a guaranteed buyback at $18 if they return it in acceptable condition by the end of the week. After that you'll buy it at market value. This works decently well for video games too.

    • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:17PM (#42020457)

      I recently spent a couple of days in Raton, NM. It's quite small but they have a thing there called the Whittington Center. It's a gigantic place to shoot, museum, store, and library on all things having to do with shooting. (How it got there is a fascinating political story that I'll leave for another day.) I'm retired and I love to shoot but it was that library that drew me in. I spent hours and hours there, finding new gems and old, every time I scanned a different shelf. I would literally consider moving to Raton just to have easy access to that specialty library...if it weren't for the fact that I spent enough time there to discover that Raton is an armpit of a place.

      In the large metro area where I currently live there are a couple of niche stores that are doing at least OK. I can think of two stores that sell just vinyl records. I can think of one that rents rare DVDs, has an extensive anime section, even has some old stock on tape that never made it to disc, and sells a small selection of high-value, carefully-selected hardware to equip your home theatre. They have employees who seem to know *everything* and can make a dozen recommendations based on scanty evidence. I've brought three discs to the front counter and said "I've seen these. I liked them. What else would I like?" Within three minutes, an employee will have sprinted me around the store and put a dozen other titles in my hands (guaranteed I haven't even heard of half of them) and I can pick at random from that pile with no fear of disappointment.

      I'm definitely willing to pay for that kind of service. It's just too bad I retired and I'm too far away from them to use them now. (In fact, I've been away for so long that I don't know if 2 of the 3 examples I just gave are still in business and I don't want the potential heartbreak of looking them up online to see if they still are.)

      That brings me to my last point - location. Most DVD stores that were successful back in the day did so by being where there were the most people. Everybody was renting DVDs so you just had to be located where the most people were to be found. There were even DVD stores that did rentals inside major shopping malls.

      Times have changed. Joe Average is no longer your customer. If the store in question is in a place with good traffic flow but no *specialty* traffic flow, then they're screwed, doubly so since not only is the customer base falling but the location rents are probably higher *because* of the good traffic flow.

      The first idea that pops into my head is that specialty equipment stores that sell guns, weightlifting equipment, cosmetics, whatever, etc., tend to have a shelf somewhere with a couple of "how-to" discs to buy. The selection is always lousy and the discs are for purchase only. I wish someone would come up with a way to put a smaller, lower-tech version of a Red Box in every speciality store in the country. Said kiosk (or just a shelf of DVDs with bar-coded labels that somehow communicate with whatever vertical app the store is using to sell all their other stuff) would rent out "how-to" and specialty DVDs to those people who are interested in the goods sold by that particular store.

      Wherever there's a successful brick-and-mortar store, there's the potential to sell and rent DVDs with highly-specialized content to the customers of those stores.

      Why not abandon the "DVD store" concept? Bring the stock to the customers instead of making the customers come to the stock. I know one gun store that tried this with books and it failed but only because it took up too much room. On a per-square-foot basis, keeping a book store inside a gun store is stupid; there's so much more profit in just adding more display space for high-dollar-markup guns. With DVDs, though, we're literally talking less than two square feet of floor space for a tall, rotating rack.

      Just an idea. I hate to see the OP's friend go out of business without at least an idea or two on the table.

  • People often change their minds, and are inspired to see other films when browsing. Having said that, The biggest advantage the online destinations have vs a brick and motar physical store is volume, and you can't compete with that.

    The latest movies - sure you can get that. I think the real question for financial success is to offer a "flavor" or style, that isn't generated by an endless catalog, because you just have to get the people who are there, rent what you have, and be happy about it. They have

    • Actually, depending on how much floor space your friend has he can open a coffee shop first. Then add a Red Box or similar DVD rental kiosks. Maybe add other types of kiosks too thus forcing people to come in. With the volume of folks coming in your coffee shop can make some good money Another thing that can be added is kids stuff like book reading, movie watching sessions and the likes. Reinvention is necessary to keep up with the times.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Offer free DVD re-winding for the returned movies.

  • Game Sales/Rentals? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by p0p0 ( 1841106 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:35PM (#42019543)
    All the video rental shops are closed, taking the video game rentals with them. I miss being able to rent a game instead of outright buying it. May not be a big enough market though.

    Buying and reselling used games that don't cost as much as their brand new counterparts is something that people are sorely in need of. Maybe credits for game rentals with a trade-in instead of cash?
    Even if you don't charge much less, charging $20-25 for a used game opposed to the $40-50 EB and Gamestop charge might drive some business away from them and towards your friend.
  • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:36PM (#42019559)

    Compute how much these new internet business models actually cost you in the long term. Send them a bill for potential losses.

    MPAA and RIAA do it all the time!

  • by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:37PM (#42019569)
    There is pretty well nothing you can do save radically change your business model. Get some rooms set up with very nice projectors, seating, sound systems, etc and let people rent them to have a private screening of some movie, for example (remember to have concessions). That, or find some other way to capitalize on your library of DVDs to make money. Make copies of DVDs for people who can show that they owned said DVD, maybe.
  • 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.

    • by V-similitude ( 2186590 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:22PM (#42019957)
      Love the coffee shop/dvd combo idea. You can even provide dvd-player units in the shop that people can use to rent a movie, watch it while they drink/eat their coffee/soda/snacks. You can make it like a mini/personalized movie theater (but hopefully getting around the whole fee structure by technically just renting the disks). Make room for the tables/booths by giving up the dvd shelf space and switching all disks to a digital selection system (a la redbox). It's still tough, but I think something like this has a good chance. Without some sort of hybridization, I don't think a dvd rental shop can succeed much longer on its own. There's just not enough need for dvd's anymore.
  • by antiapathy ( 2516456 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:39PM (#42019591)
    Come up with creative-funny gift ideas (Christopher Walkin Box set, Chuck Norris Box set),Sell retro computer games(similar shelving), Lend the book that goes with the movie, gather other good info with the movie, Have amazing memorabilia that will attract people into the store (celebrity death masks aren't always expensive), Like an art space, do other things to attract people there: small indie-video screenings, movie discussions, director talks. Put on a local TV show discussing movies coming out on DVD.
  • Personally, I find renting a DVD a pain in the ass. If I have a movie in mind that I want to watch, it's not there, or already rented out. Then I have to go search for another movie to watch. When I find a movie to rent, I either watch it right away, or decide to watch it later and "buffer" it on my PC. Now I have to go back to the movie store to return it, another hassle. To be honest, it's so much easier to go watch a movie on iTunes or other online services.

    What would be awesome is USB stick rentals. I b

  • What is annoying is to rent a turkey movie DVD. So, open imdb.com [imdb.com] and get only movies with a rating of 7+.
  • He should expand into seedboxes

  • ...your buddy needs to get out of the buggy whip business. 5 years ago. He might have been able to sell to some sucker named Randy back then.

    Music stores, book stores, and movie rental stores: No longer viable businesses.

    Anything that can be transmitted electronically has no place in a physical storefront. The sooner your friend accepts reality, the sooner he can transition to services or physical goods.

  • DVDs' primary advantages are from how obnoxious advertising becomes online for online movies and how content control interferes with maintaining and replaying copies around a house. DVD prices need to be lower to move faster in volume, closer to current rental prices where people buy armloads at a time. Home archives without DVD may become a problem because of "IP" controls.
  • A Nightmare on Facetime [southparkstudios.com]
    Unfortunately, you can't (legally) watch it yet.

    Unfortunately, unless he's in a rural area, he's pretty much screwed. He can try to follow the model Family Video [familyvideo.com] uses, since they all seem to be successful around here for some reason, but other than that either get out or get screwed.

  • I remember trying DVD rentals when these shiny new DVD thingies came out.
    Trouble was, 1/3 of the movies I rented were ruined due to the discs being scratched to death.
    In my experience VHS tape survives typical renter mistreatment a lot better than optical discs.
    Not to mention all the unskippable shit. I presume there are now DVD players that ignore the 'do not skip' flag. Ugh.
    DVD rental stores drove me away long ago.

    Maybe your friend should try renting movies on VHS, and don't forget betamax!
    DVDs are cheap

  • Start a hackerspace? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:51PM (#42019697) Homepage Journal

    If your friend is running a successful business, then he's got a particularly useful and uncommon skill.

    Some 80% of all first businesses fail, but only 20% of second businesses fail. That's because after the first business, you learn from your mistakes. Your friend has the skills and experience needed to start a new business - and that's what he should do.

    So, what's trending on the map right now? What brick-and-mortar establishments are on the rise?

    How about setting up a hackerspace [hackaday.com]? These seem to be popping up everywhere, and unlike McDonalds, there's still room for more.

    While running the 'space, keep an eye out for things that might be products [seeedstudio.com]. With a hackerspace available it's easy to "test the waters" for a new tech product: you have access to people with skills for design, construction, [website] sales, and so on.

    What they don't have is someone who can steer the ship, someone who has experience in things like incorporating, taxes, management, planning, accounting, and so on.

    Consider starting a hackerspace. I hear that they can be successful and lots of fun.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @12:55PM (#42019741)

    I actually might be qualified to answer this since my business partner and I are in this very scenario and we have already made adjustments that have had a real positive impact.

    My partner's dvd rental store has been in business and at the same location for over 16 years. During that time, Blockbuster gave it a run for TEN years directly across the street, but closed down 2 years ago. He began supplementing the business by becoming a wireless dealer and bill payment station. Here in Houston, multipurpose shops are EVERYWHERE and are VITAL in small, mostly Hispanic communities, so in order to compete, your store must offer all or at least some of the following: Phone service, phone cards (for international calling), bill payment such as local utilities and cable, Western Union, MoneyGram, money orders, copies, fax service, etc...

    We recently began offering computer repairs and upgrades in addition to the cell phone repairs and he has quite a bit of retail space dedicated to not only popcorn, candy and soda, but even chips, sweets, fortune cookies, designer fragrances, and tons of accessories.

    This may seem crazy to a lot of readers here, and it's certainly a lot to juggle for a store owner, but the truth is, he has been a staple in the community for so long that our customers keep finding reasons to come in. Sure, they still rent dvds, but they really come for the multitude oi other helpful services we offer.

  • Bookstores are trying to maintain their relevance by becoming coffeeshops that sell books. The idea is to make the store a destination in its own right, rather than just the means to get a chunk of entertainment. At a bookstore you can sample the offerings before picking one out (not possible with DVD-by-mail, and possible – but not really done well – by streaming services), so maybe set up DVD players with headphones, or (shhhh) rip the DVDs and let the customers preview them on kiosks in the

  • 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.

  • Maybe he could try his hand at the used video market?

    Just as game stores increasingly earn their profits through buybacks and re-sales of used games and console hardware, he could get into the business of purchasing and re-selling used DVD/Blu-ray movies, and maybe used video players as well.

  • Or burn the place down for the insurance..

  • by urbanriot ( 924981 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:07PM (#42019851)
    We've had a rental outlet in my city for the past 20 years or so and they've survived by giving people what they want and people drive 30 minutes out of town to rent videos from this place. What sets them apart is the following:

    - wide selection of movies and TV shows, stuff you won't find elsewhere or downloadable via torrents, like lesser known foreign and independent movies, the place is huge.

    - enough copies of popular movies so you can almost always get what you went there for

    - blu-ray, DVD, VHS (!), Xbox 360, Wii, etc., whatever you and your family needs, it's there

    - two for one days on slower nights of the week and other coupons for the past decade brings plenty of people into the outlet

    - extras are sold off at a good price when they're no longer rented

  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:12PM (#42019873) Homepage

    If you are in a small town, specializing in out of print or hard to find catalogs probably won't be enough to survive... Kinda how record stores are restricted to large metro areas.

    But here are some ideas:

    Get a post office account and offer pre-paid mail-in returns. It will take some doing to ensure the packaging is light and small enough to keep mailing costs down, but it would make it far more convenient to rent.

    Allow reservations online.

    Open a small pizza pro or similar franchise in the corner of the store so people can grab dinner and a movie all at once.

    Sell esoteric candy and theater popcorn, for the same reason, but at reasonable prices.

    Buy and sell used DVDs. Take the movie home and keep it? Just 12.99-19.99 depending on the movie. Bring it back? Then just the rental fee. Look at what Vintage Stock / Movie Trading Company is doing, where the buy-in price is determined by software that looks at the current stock across all stores vs the past few months of sales. More popular movies or really rare ones are worth more, and thus entice people to bring them in.

    Buy and sell game systems, used and new.

    Offer disc resurfacing services for damaged discs.

    If your market supports it, buy and sell Vinyl records, including new releases that come with digital downloads.

    Offer home theater consulting services, offer training on what surround sound is or how to build your own HT setup.

    Make sure the store is a fun/inviting environment to be in: have couches setup and the latest game systems available to play, have a kiosk with IMDB so people can easily lookup who was in what movie (bonus points if you can hookup Google voice search API to it so its voice controlled). Become an Apple authorized reseller/service center. Sell cables/adapters, the AppleTV, and demo AirPlay to people, etc.

    I'm sure you could think of others. If people feel comfortable and want to spend time in your store, they'll be much more likely to purchase something.

    These are just a few ideas that spring to mind.

  • Not sure how much floor space your friend has but..
    Coffee shop
    Sell books, comics/manga, magaines
    Study pods/counters
    Rent or sell music cds and live concert dvds
    Sell not rent
    Rent game consoles
    have screens showing trailers of new films
    Contract with indies to sell theirs
    If it is in a major location, special events for example a director gives a talk
    Link with film festivals
    Allow people to watch any films in the shop, plus some streaming accounts, on large screens in the shop - you can just charge per hour and let people try titles one after another
    Look at the kind of films that get shown on MUBI.
    Write reviews / recommendations for titles, like in book stores
    Sell hardware like ebook readers, cameras, hard disks
    Sell fun and funky products
    Provide cheap or free coffee or other drinks/eats like in a movie theater
    Provide books about cinema to get people interested in huge world of film
    Go after foreign film genres, both classic and contemporary. For example Japanese film, Finnish film, Mexican film, French Film.
    Put up great movie posters. Not just cheapo sci-fi flix. French posters are often well done.
    Sell audio books and classical/jazz too, your audience doesn't have to be just little kids, these are popular among older people for car and for home listening. My parents put audio books in the car and also into an ipod for listening at home for my father.
    Could bring in other crowds - older people, people who are into design, art and architecture, people who are into looking for new films instead of watching the same ones over and over
    Sell sets of classic movies, like hitchcock or car grant, etc.
    Sell sets of movies like 007, etc.
    When a new film is out in theaters, sell or rent all the films that director or lead actor/actress has made.
    Make a members card that gives you discounts
    Tie up with other businesses
    Make new "film festivals" or "Now Showing xxxx" events every week or month
    (I think this is fair use...) Offer to load ipod with music the person rents, then they don't have to bring the CD back to you..
    Rent high quality equipment for people who want to make their own films, or provide studio space for band to record or something to engage community and people who are enthusiastic.
    Engage film clubs (not sure if this works)
    Research lots of films so people can always come to you to find them.

  • by Penurious Penguin ( 2687307 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:43PM (#42020711) Journal
    Here is Sarasota, FL, there's a place that's been around for a long time and continues to survive. Business is probably not what is was 10 years ago, but the last time I was in, I asked such questions. Before I learned much, I interrupted to ask about Terry, one of the guys who for the last decade (or two?) seemed inseparable from the place. Unfortunately he'd passed away. Terry Porter was a real wizard of film. Aside from being a kind and interesting fellow, I knew I never had to leave the store empty-handed if I could just vaguely describe a desired genre to him. All the folks who've worked there (or still do) exhibit an impressive knowledge of film. One advantage of the store is that for many years, they've specialized in difficult-to-find material, and I suspect that even in the age anything-you-want-right-now, they still have a few things up their sleeves one would struggle to find elsewhere.

    That's about all I can say. Whether I've described their virtues well or not, they remain in the same location - with customers, but apparently without a website. I dug up their Faceclamp page [facebook.com] and a news article [ticketsarasota.com] on Terry; maybe between the two you'll find an idea.
  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @03:37PM (#42021157) Journal

    All of the go niche posts are going to lead to tears. I keep seeing do anime, or do unusual scifi, or become and expert service, book/movie clubs. The trouble I see here is these all rely on exclusivity and digital media by its very nature defies that.

    It might be true that today none of the big streaming services is quite all things to all people but the market is speaking pretty clearly. The horse has left the barn some combination of streaming and digital downloads are the future video distribution, at least as far as entertainment is concerned.

    All the nice plans will require a major investment, and the corner video store guy is not going to be able to negotiate any kind of license exclusivity. All it would take is one of the big streaming players to get some blanket license agreements for the big content players ( who own the rights to much of the independent and historical stuff one way or another ) and suddenly his very narrow selection of customers is gone to greener pastures. In the meantime he will have invested lots of capital into assets of little or no residual value.

    Personally I think his best bet if its good retail space is sell off library and lease or sublet the shop to someone interested in operating a business of some kind fit for the modern era.

  • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @04:57PM (#42021779) Journal

    Videomatica in Vancouver was (is?) famous for their foreign films and back catalogues and were staffed by movie buffs.

    They had talked about closing up, but checking them [videomatica.ca] just now (redirects to new site), they've closed their flagship store and are sharing a location with a record store.

    They'd been in business for some 25 years or so, yet had to downscale their location in a reasonably large city just to keep the doors open. And I think they were popular Canada-wide for those really hard to get rentals among people willing to pay shipping...

    Your friend might be able to get some ideas by looking at how they adapted to the times.

    PS Tried to post this before, still have the "Working" throbber on my screen; apologies if it's a repeat.

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