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A Different Reason To Consider the Subscription Model

4 Feb, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

In doing the series about video store crime, I realized how many things video stores have in common with convenience stores. Things that make both businesses crime targets.

Both businesses do a lot of cash traffic, tend to have a lot of obstructed views, cash registers at the back or one side of the store, long hours, short staff, lots of mom-and-pop shops. Lots of common risk factors.

One difference, though, is that the DVD era has ushered in a new approach to doing video business that might have an unexpected fringe benefit in discouraging crime. The subscription model just might be a pure rental business' answer to the convenience store's drop safe.

Experts say the best way to avoid being a robbery target is to be low-yield. Many street criminals actually do evaluate and choose targets based on how much they think they will get and how much hassle it will be to get it. Doing business by prepaid subscription could reduce the risk of a store getting robbed by reducing the amount of cash moving through the brick-and-mortar business. Sociologist Rosemary Erickson, who contributed many of the crime prevention tips we published, noted that bandits seldom rob trendy boutiques because they know most the the business there is done by credit card.

That is, provided the business advertises the fact. When convenience stores and gas stations first started installing drop safes for periodic cash deposits, they found they had to post signs advertising them or the crooks thought the employees were lying about not having money. Bandits mistaking the truth for resistance cost more than one life. So a store with an all-subscription model would want to post prominent signs advertising that there is little cash on the premises.

That could cut down on incidental purchases and sellthrough trade, unless the store owner could devise a way to manage a tab or credit card billing system for customer accounts – like a good, old-fashioned general store. But in this electronic age, those hardly seem like insurmountable obstacles. Candy and zapcorn sales might even increase, since people tend to spend more when they don't have to fork over cash.

It's an individual evaluation, since there are tradeoffs. A store with high-volume customers in a low-risk neighborhood might lose too much in rentals and late charges to make subscription fees worth the extra prevention value.

I'm sure it's not practical for everybody, but it's an idea worth considering if your business is in a high crime area. Who knows? It might help streamline other aspects of a business too.

Have you experienced crime at your video business? Discuss your experiences and share prevention tips here.

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