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Buying Is an Impulse — and DVDs Are No Exception

11 Dec, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I've gotten a lot of responses to my column of last week in which I urged video rentailers to start aggressively selling DVD or else risk extinction. Some agreed with me, including one retailer who wrote to tell me that he only carries DVD, everything's available for sale or rent, and his business is up 60 percent on the sales side and 50 percent on the rental side.

I also heard from retailers who in essence told me I am full of hooey, although they didn't use that word.

I stand by what I wrote, and I will even go a step further: I wonder if the big rental chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood could even become magnets for selling DVDs rather than rentals, if they wanted to.

You see, in the nearly two decades since video stores effectively ceded the sellthrough business to the mass merchants through their own inertia, consumers have been trained to buy a certain way, and that way ain't in the video store.

Especially now, when every movie is available for sale straight out of the gate, the impulse factor is more important than ever. Chains like Wal-Mart realize this and feed on it. They put bargain bins in high-traffic aisles, and fill them not with budget crap, but with high-quality catalog titles from major studios they picked up for a song. The guy who's buying diapers and a new toilet flush mechanism walks by, something catches his eye, and he begins scouring the bin for $5.88 treasures. As soon as he's done, he starts walking until just a few feet away there's a rack of Pirates of the Caribbean or Finding Nemo for $14.88. He's hooked again, and since this rack is right outside the dedicated DVD section, guess where he heads next.

That's how we buy videos — or, more specifically, DVDs — and short of trying to beat the discounters at their own game, there's little the video specialty goliaths can do about it.

Short of carrying toilet paper and Tide, Blockbuster and Hollywood may be out of luck.

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