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THE MORNING BUZZ: One Man's Disaster is Another's Opportunity

22 Oct, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner

While the short-lived (at least for now) West Coast port lockout isn't expected to have a huge effect on home video product availablilty this holiday season, I'm not ready to concede that it won't affect our market.

In fact, I'm actively advocating that video retailers and rentailers make sure the lockout has an effect on their businesses – a positive one. How, you muse to yourself?

I'm glad you asked. Because we are a nation built on mercenary capitalism and the holiday season, far from an exception, exemplifies the rule. The response to the port situation should follow in that mode.

Recent news reports have focused on the idea that toy retailers will be hardest hit because “just-in-time ordering” means the lockout will keep some toys from getting to some shelves.

Most of the hottest toys of the year listed in several reports this week, including the most prominent from research group PlayDate, have some kind of video tie-in. In fact, the top of the list is Barbie as Rapunzel, the doll co-marketed with the red-hot direct-to-video Artisan title Barbie in Rapunzel. Other video-related toys include items in the Yu-Gi-Oh!, Spongebob Squarepants, Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Power Rangers and Scooby Doo.

This offers video retailers a great opportunity to capitalize on toy-video pairings as well as on toy shortages. A parent who can't find Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards would surely rather wrap up the DVD and promise the game later than be the sad sack who has to see disappointment on his or her child's face on Christmas day. And the parent who has no problem finding the Barbie Rapunzel doll could look like a star if they give it along with the video.

Smart retailers would do well to look at those hot toy lists and see what opportunities the list creates. Can your store afford to give a purchase discount or perhaps a free rental on Artisan's Barbie in Rapunzel to anyone who shows a receipt from purchasing the doll?

And monitor the shortages in your community. If your local toy stores are depleted of Star Wars toys, offer incentives to rent or buy the video as a stopgap gift until the light sabers and battle cruisers are back on the shelves.

Here's one more possibility: I lived in Denver for a couple of years. In such snowy climes, people may not be able to get to a distant mall or department store to fill holiday gift requests. When snow prevented my household from shopping, the answer was to cut pictures out of a catalog and wrap them in boxes sized appropriately for the real item. That way there are packages to unwrap even if the family is housebound.

Why not go a step further? Encourage snowbound customers to rent the video for a few days and wrap it as a gift with a note promising,”We'll get the toy when we return the video.” In this economy that idea could be extended to other climes, where parents may wish to buy at after-Christmas sale prices without disappointing their cherubs on the actual day.

I don't wish any misfortune on toy dealers or other retailers. But if it happens, we'd be fools not to turn it to our advantage.

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