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THE MORNING BUZZ: VSDA Won't Be Caught Between Indies & Chains

16 Sep, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

As the heightened impatience level of certain activist independent video retailers (IVRs) might attest, it's clear the Video Software Dealers Association is not (and for the most part never was) going to take the side of the IVR “against” the big chains that, as many IVRs are wont to blame, are responsible for their somewhat precarious business fortunes.

A house divided is sure to fall and, though the IVRs collectively have a majority of the estimated 25,000 or so video specialty storefronts in the U.S., still a handful of powerful and growing chains individually represent almost as many IVRs and they, too, are a significant membership factor and influence for the VSDA, along with a host of non-specialty retail sectors, studios and distributors.

While the association has attempted to offer a spectrum of services and education for IVRs, and invested several million dollars in the past several years in certain special programs (generic advertising test, copy depth study, etc.) that, according to the VSDA, were generated with the IVRs in mind, still, the association cannot and will not, as some IVR advocates would have hoped, take up as its major reason for being the cause of helping indies compete against their major competitors, the chains.

The association's new three-year strategic plan will call for more emphasis on legal and regulatory advocacy on behalf of the industry as a whole, including the First Sale battle looming on the electronic frontier (a return to its roots, when the VSDA was in the thick of the First Sale battle in the early 80s), as well as its usual First Amendment, free speech battles and legal battles in various states pertaining to adult content retailing.

Research is another area the association hopes to expand upon for the benefit of both chains and indies alike. And education services that include online, conferences and trade shows for both the industry and even consumers are being revamped and or created to be cost effective and provide a decent return for the association and its members. In fact the association has committed that it will be “net positive” in its operations by next year, by cutting costs and seeking to build new revenue streams to replace the ones that have fallen. Chapters are expected to operate similarly.

This belt tightening will mean significant projects that focused on improving IVR competitiveness in the marketplace will either have to be self-funding in some manner or they cannot be pursued. That, amongst other issues of long-standing irritation to IVRs, has caused some of the VSDA's more outspoken IVR board members such as Mick Blanken, to resign or not pursue additional terms in office, feeling that the VSDA is no longer attempting to fulfill a role they had hoped it would or could aspire to fulfill.

Certainly in its early to middle years the VSDA may have been accurately perceived to be the association for the independent video retailer. And while that is still a membership base the association clearly wants to continue representing and serving, it's also clear it intends to ensure it keeps its focus broad enough to be able to embrace a wide variety of interests in the home entertainment industry.

Video Store Magazine and Hive4media.com in the next several weeks will examine the current and future status of the VSDA as it seeks to re-focus on what it believes are its core capabilities, and grow not only its current membership constituencies but reach out to others (such as online providers) who also can benefit from its services.

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