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Random Thoughts From the Consumer POV

15 Jul, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

I don't have a lot to say on any one topic this week so I'm just going to comment on a few random observations from the marketplace. Don't expect them to be related, but if you see a connection – or not – you're welcome to send your comments.

For a while I was pulling for Kmart to survive, but after a chance stop at my neighborhood Kmart yesterday, I've lost faith in Kmart's ability to pull it out. Not only was the garden section nearly bare (half a table of marigolds on their last gasp and a few bags of potting soil and fertilizer), it was clear that suppliers in some categories are no longer making Kmart a priority: from aisle to aisle, a shopper could walk along and see areas stocked normally punctuated with huge, empty swaths that seemed to cry out for merchandise. A chain bent on survival should at least try to make it look like shelves are full. It was clear at this store that no effort was made to fill in the literal – and very visible -- gaps.
The DVD section, which has been one aisle under locked glass doors for a bit more than a year, was blocked at one end with a pyramid of boxed TV sets. It was obviously set up that way to force traffic past the electronics department sales counter, which to me screams loss control.

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I have to admit I consider myself a less-than-likely potential customer for Buena Vista and Flexplay's test of the EZ-D disposable DVD disc. But while I was at the supermarket over the Independence Day weekend, I realized how the product could succeed as an impulse purchase and how it will cannibalize rentals, not sales.
I arrived at this conclusion in the produce section, of all places (does anyone else out there remember Arlo Guthrie's old rap about “Celery Consciousness”)? I had finished the rest of my shopping and realized I needed a bunch of celery. I frowned that the price was about 40 cents more per bunch than at the produce market, but the 40 cents would save me another stop. Guess where I bought the celery?
From the checkout line, I could look out the supermarket window across the intersection to Blockbuster (on a pad in front of the ill-stocked Kmart). As I stared absently across the intersection, I realized that if I were a Blockbuster customer, I would make the same substitution of an EZ-D for a rental if it saved me another stop and trip to a counter. Now, if I had a subscription that meant I would not have to shell out at all for the rental, I might make the extra stop. The moral of this story is, the closer the price of a disposable is to the price of a rental, the more likely it is to pillage rentals and succeed in the marketplace.

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Last night I was watching a show on TV and started flipping during the commercials back to E! channel and its “101 Most Shocking Moments in Entertainment,” which is presented in hourlong segments of 20. I have a shocking moment for them to add: The one when I realized that Eddie Murphy getting picked up during the wee hours of a long-ago morning with a cross-dressing hooker in his car rated more shocking than a Great White club gig that accidentally left 99 people dead in a fire.
I don't know who ranked the list, but to me it was a big statement on American priorities that one celebrity misbehaving is more shocking than 99 nobodies going out for night on the town and losing their lives.

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