Leaving one family to care for another6 Mar, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold
The good guys just keep leaving. The latest veteran player in the home video industry to jump ship and either pursue other opportunities (as they say) or retire is John Thrasher, the longtime VP of video purchasing at the troubled Tower Records and Video chain.
I don't think there's anyone out there who doesn't know John and who hasn't felt John is remarkably in tune with this business and where it's headed. Back in the late 1980s, when I first started writing about video, John was one of the big believers in sellthrough; I remember an early interview in which he told me Tower's policy was to merchandise videos for sale and for rent right next to each in the chain's dedicated video departments because that way consumers had a choice. Tower's goal was to become a movie store, regardless of the business model.
John was so respected a buyer that in the fall of 1991, when Video Store Magazine was developing a prototype for its transition from a monthly to a weekly, John was our first cover boy — and our first “Handicapper,” whose weekly buys would be positioned as a model for other retailers to follow.
As sellthrough flourished, John was one of the first home entertainment retail guys to rail, loudly and angrily, against the deep discounting of product, first at the mass merchants and later by the online sellers. I remember John being particularly ticked at Reel.com for selling Titanic for less than 10 bucks. He felt the loss-leader strategy would devalue video and was unfair to other retailers who maybe couldn't afford to take it in the shorts just to build market share.
When DVD came around, John was in his element. While Tower patriarch Russ Solomon was in the limelight as one of Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb's hand-picked poster boys for the new format, it was John Thrasher who was making things work, busily working behind the scenes on product mix, merchandising and other key elements in Tower's enormously successful DVD strategy.
Now, John's dad needs him, and he's moving to Bakersfield to take care of him. That's John — a good guy. We're going to miss him.