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THE MORNING BUZZ: Are the Scrappy Indies Making a Comeback?

12 Aug, 2002 By: Stephanie Prange

Sunsplash, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., bash that yearly taps into the pulse of independent video retailers, may be a bellwether of a brighter future for the segment.

Organizers said preliminarily that attendance was up at the Video Software Dealers Association chapter event, and indications are indies are on the rise as well. "The number of independent stores has grown in the last year or two," said Bill Crystal, VP of sales for the East Region at Ingram Entertainment, during his presentation at Sunsplash.

With the favorable sellthrough pricing of DVD somewhat leveling the playing field between the independents and the big guys, it seems logical the segment would be growing again, or at least cease hemorrhaging stores as it has in recent years. Flat pricing on VHS by some studios also has offered a more equitable environment on cassette rentals.

Sunsplash attendee and industry veteran Ray Jewell, after a brief retirement, has reentered the business with Mister Video in Athens, Tenn. That seems to presage something. Either he's a glutton for punishment, or he sees a future for the independent.

The quick extinction of the segment seemed a foregone conclusion not so long ago. The National Association of Video Distributors periodic release of statistics on the hundreds of stores going out of business seemed to strike a death knell for the independent operator. All the news was bad.

I may be wrong in seeing a glimmer of hope. But I'd be curious to hear from indies who've recently gotten into the business and hitched their fortunes to this mercurial business. The scrappy indies may yet rise again.

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