2015 Home Entertainment Visionaries: Walmart Stars23 Feb, 2015
From the Publisher
Walmart may be the biggest retailer in the world, but the company doesn’t get nearly as much respect as it deserves for its innovative and at times visionary approach to retailing.
Walmart’s endeavors in home entertainment are a great example. The chain, like nearly all retailers, only dabbled in home video during the rental era, carrying Disney classics and budget movies, most of them in the public domain.
But when the emergence of DVD tilted the business from rental to sellthrough, Walmart sensed an opportunity. I can almost visualize the company’s strategists, watching and waiting to see what would happen once consumers were able to buy first-run movies as soon as they were released on home video, instead of having to wait six months or even longer — and on a shiny little five-inch disc, just like the CDs with which they were already familiar.
Two years after DVD’s launch, Walmart jumped into the market and within two years virtually owned the category, using discs as a loss leader to drive traffic into its stores and commanding a 40% share of the business.
Music stores and rental dealers who also had been eyeing DVD sellthrough never even had a chance. Walmart swooped in and owned the market, and in the process played a critical role in DVD’s overwhelming success through innovative marketing and merchandising as well as retail exclusives.
Walmart was just as aggressive when Blu-ray Disc burst on the scene, even though a bruising format war chilled consumer interest. Walmart stepped up its game, particularly in the area of exclusives, and subsequently played a key role in transitioning mainstream America from DVD to the high-definition disc.
Now, the home entertainment business is once again at a crossroads. But while many retailers felt, and still feel, that digital distribution is killing their business, Walmart saw an opportunity and jumped right into the cyber-fray with a disc-to-digital program and Vudu, a digital entertainment service.
Today, then, Walmart occupies a unique position in the home entertainment business: The mighty retail chain is not just the world’s biggest seller of home entertainment products, but also one of the industry’s leading innovators. Walmart continues to support the packaged-media business that remains Hollywood’s bread and butter, but at the same time is working diligently to clear the path for consumers to buy movies and TV shows over the Internet — and make it as simple, as easy and as inexpensive as possible for them to do so.
No surprise, then, that studio executives see visits to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, as a pilgrimage of sorts.
As senior category director for movies, Walmart U.S., Louis Greth spearheads Walmart’s packaged-media and digital movie sales in stores as well as online at Walmart.com and Vudu. He coordinates promotions and retail exclusives and oversees supplier relationships for all of Walmart’s movie business.
Chris Nagelson, VP of entertainment merchandising, Walmart U.S., oversees the media and entertainment business for Walmart. He is responsible for developing merchandising strategies, managing supplier relationships and aligning operations for Walmart stores.
Both executives are worthy recipients of Home Media Magazine’s 2015 Visionary Award, the latest in a series of honorees dating back to 2002, when Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD, received the same honor. Other honorees have included Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold, Samsung’s Tim Baxter and the DEG’s own Amy Jo Smith.
Congratulations, Louis and Chris. You’ve done a lot for our industry.
VP of Entertainment Merchandising, Walmart U.S.
Nagelson spearheads the media and entertainment business for Walmart, which is the No. 1 sellthrough retailer and the studios’ largest customer.
He is responsible for developing merchandising strategies, managing supplier relationships and aligning operations for Walmart stores.
“We continue to leverage our more than 4,500 stores and fast-growing digital entertainment service, Vudu, to serve our customers with the latest entertainment, exclusive offers and industry-leading prices,” Nagelson said. “The home entertainment industry is constantly evolving, and so are our customers’ needs. Customers are looking to be able to access entertainment content on their terms — whether it be through physical DVDs and Blu-rays, on-the-go on their mobile devices or a hybrid of both.”
Nagelson helped launch the company’s Disc-to-Digital program in early 2012 through the retailer’s Vudu.com. This was the first disc-to-digital platform created in association with the studios. The initiative supports industry-backed UltraViolet and helped push the rollout of the cloud-based digital storage service.
Walmart’s Vudu also recently signed on to support Disney’s cloud-based digital movie service, Disney Movies Anywhere.
Nagelson leads the Walmart Entertainment Council, which selects which big event films will be supported across categories at Walmart.
The executive holds an extensive background in retail merchandising. He began his career at Walmart in 2005 and has served as VP and divisional merchandising manager for the men’s apparel business and VP of entertainment property merchandising. Prior to joining Walmart, Nagelson was a buyer for Abercrombie & Fitch and Macy’s, as well as a divisional merchandising manager for American Eagle.
Nagelson is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. He lives in Rogers, Ark., with his wife and children.
Senior Category Director for Movies, Walmart U.S.
Greth leads Walmart’s packaged-media and digital movie sales in stores as well as online at Walmart.com and Vudu.
As Walmart is the studios’ No. 1 customer of product globally, Greth is charged with significant responsibilities. He coordinates promotions and retail exclusives and oversees supplier relationships for all of Walmart’s movie business. He is also responsible for the growth and development of Walmart’s disc-to-digital program, which gives consumers digital access to movies that they already own on disc.
“It’s a great way to drive traffic in the store, but it’s also meant to unlock value in the content consumers already own,” Greth said upon launch of the program in 2012.
“As the world’s largest movie destination, we will continue to work with our studio partners to provide unique retail programs that allow our customers to celebrate the most-anticipated releases,” Greth said. “Whether it’s through our broad selection of new releases or licensed merchandise, customers can rely on Walmart to carry the items they want at great low prices.”
Greth has nearly 20 years of retail experience. He began his career at Walmart in June 2001 as the assistant buyer for office supplies in the Sam’s Club division. He has since held multiple buying positions at Walmart, including product development manager/buyer for toys at Sam’s Club, as well as senior buyer for toys and senior buyer for movies for Walmart U.S. Prior to joining Walmart, he worked for The Gap Inc. in San Francisco.
Greth holds a B.S. in retail from the University of Arizona.
He resides in Bentonville, Ark., with his wife and three children.