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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Blanken on His Resignation

19 Sep, 2002 By: Mick Blanken

The following is an editorial letter from recently resigned VSDA board member Mick Blanken, in response to an article about the organization by Kurt Indvik.

It is with great dismay that I must respond to your editorial of September 16 -- "VSDA Won't Be Caught Between Indies & Chains". I cannot speak on behalf of any other specific retailer, independent or otherwise. However, the inference that my resignation from the VSDA Board of Directors is a result of the collective issues stated in your article is largely inaccurate. And, while I do have issues with VSDA, it is not fair to VSDA to have those issues or thoughts misstated, improperly characterized, or used simply to perpetuate a conflict between the association and its membership.

IVRs vs. Big Chains
I have never been a proponent of the idea that the VSDA should arbitrarily "...take the side of the IVR against the big chains". In fact, I have always contended, and openly stated, that VSDA should serve ALL video retailers. Furthermore, I have never stated that the major reason for the existence of VSDA should be to help the IVR compete against their major chain competition.

VSDA's Strategic Plan
You are correct that the new strategic plan calls for a great emphasis on legislative affairs and research...just as it should. Not only do I have no objection to that, but I agree with it. But, even given that great emphasis, the strategic plan still allows for programs and benefits for all retailers, including IVRs. There are legislative battles looming that might prove to be potentially more damaging to video retailers than any past challenge...including the initial battle over first sale. VSDA should continue to protect the legal rights of all retailers, and should work hard to make sure that it can continue to be in a position to do so when necessary.

VSDA'S Financial Ability To Provide Services And Benefits To IVRs
It is obvious that VSDA is in a situation that requires it to "tighten its belt". But the real issue has little to do with "what amount" VSDA spends, and more to do with how "efficiently" it spends it.

At its inception, virtually 100% of the revenues generated by VSDA could be attributed to the IVR...if for no other reason than that all video retailers of the time were, in fact, independent. As time passed (and especially over the last several years) the percentage of those revenues attributable to the chains and larger retailers has grown significantly...to the point where those revenues may now be the dominant source of income for the association. In general, I have no resentment over this.

However, as revenues from chains have grown, revenues (both directly and indirectly) realized on behalf of IVRs have declined...primarily as a result of the erosion of the IVR retail and membership base. I believe that much of that base erosion might have been unnecessary.

Your article (among others of late) reminds us that a lot of money has been spent in pursuit of providing benefits primarily of use to IVRs. That is absolutely true, and many of those benefits are very viable. But, there seems to be a lot of focus on the millions of dollars VSDA spent on a couple of large tests over the last few years. In my opinion, there is no reason that VSDA should not continue to allocate funds (based on appropriate availability) for programs and projects PROVIDED that those programs and projects are PROPERLY implemented AND properly represented to the membership. In my opinion, this has not been the case.

It is disappointing to me that VSDA continues to allow the implication that its commitment to spend this money on these initiatives to help IVRs is largely to blame for its current financial situation...that it is VSDA's specific support for its IVR members that is helping to exasperate this problem.

Unfortunately, VSDA may be in a position today where it MUST place greater emphasis on larger retailers and chains, as they have become a dominant source of the association's funding. But, in my opinion, that VSDA finds itself in that position is a result (at least in part) of how it has chosen to conduct business over the last several years.

It is equally disappointing to me that VSDA continues to convey confusion as to what, exactly, IVRs think it should do for them; that VSDA continues to deny their failures, instead of learning from them; and that VSDA's reaction to those failed projects is not to make the necessary adjustments in the future, but rather to simply refrain from undertaking them at all.

As children, our parents taught us that "practice makes perfect". But that is not true..."PROPER practice makes perfect". Practicing IMPROPER implementation only makes us perfect at doing things improperly. VSDA's expectation that IVRs should respect the association just for pursuing a benefit on their behalf is unacceptible. The day that they make an honest commitment to the PROPER pursuit of IVR benefits is the day that more IVRs will offer that respect.

In the future, I would appreciate it if you would contact me prior to making any statement that infers that I have any specific position or opinion in regards to VSDA or my resignation.

Thank you.
Mick Blanken Superhitz

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