Word of the Chapter 11 filing of video giant, Blockbuster, does not necessarily mean a death knell for all video stores. According to the Christian Science Monitor, small, independent retail stores are surviving nicely by catering to their customers’ needs and filling a specific niche in a specialized market. “Blockbuster employees literally laughed in our faces when we opened our doors in 2000,” Matt Martin, co-owner of Black Lodge Video in Memphis, TN, told the Monitor. But a decade later, Black Lodge is one of the biggest video stores in the Eastern U.S., and its business continues to grow, the Monitor reports. The secret to Black Lodge’s success, says Martin, is that the store, which occupies a 3,500 square foot house with a music studio upstairs, has focused on building a comprehensive film library rather than catering to the constantly changing tastes of the broader public.
And there are other factors at work as well. BusinessNet.com notes, “As the big companies close stores in an effort to make their enterprises lean and competitive, small movie shops are moving in to fill the gaps. They’re offering older movies, foreign films and art house titles to attract movie connoisseurs and impulse buyers; those who don’t want to wait two or three days to receive a film in the mail. And they’re succeeding.” Marty Graham, president of the pay per transaction division at Rentrak, told BNet, “We’ve seen some of the more aggressive independents looking to expand their businesses. A minority are opening additional stores as the major chains pull out of a particular market.”
Forbes magazine also weighed in on the culture shift, offering some suggestions for independent video stores to cement their success. Among them:
- Carve out a niche. If one particular offering doesn’t work in your market, try another.
- Customer service matters. One owner of an independent video shop says he can take a chance on stocking unusual titles because his customers value his recommendations.
- Offer complementary products. Some small retailers have branched into pizza, phone retailing and even setting up tanning booths in-store.
- Craft flexible payment schemes. When Blockbuster did away with late fees two years ago, Alan Milligan, owner of Memphis based Marquee Movies, responded by letting his customers prepay for rentals and rack up points, similar to a credit card rewards program.