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Readying for War

16 Mar, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

We may be about to get more than we really want to see of “reality TV.”

I am, of course, referring to what seems to be the inexorable march toward war with Iraq. This week may see a climax to the weeks and weeks of U.N. debate and drama over the U.S. demand for a second resolution from the international body approving the use of force to get Iraq to disarm. Whatever the end result of that wrangling is, the likelihood is we will have war, and sooner rather than later. The troop buildup on the scale we have seen has only rarely not resulted in military action being taken.

In this week's issue of Video Store Magazine we talk with some retailers and analysts about the impact a war might have on the home video business. I am sure most of us share the same feelings to the effect that, there are other more important things to be concerned about in the event of war than how the home video business fares. And while that may be true, still, it is what we do and how we make our living, and we must prepare as best we can.

Home video, it is agreed, will in fact play a role helping those of us at home manage our intake of what will doubtless be constant (for the first few weeks) non-stop war reportage that includes disturbing images of death and destruction…real reality TV. At first we will all feel compelled to watch, out of concern for family and friends that may be in the conflict, or out of sheer compulsion to witness one of man's most powerful and gruesome attributes; the ability to wage organized violence against our own species for whatever reasons we deem appropriate.

We can expect a lull, then, in people coming to the video store looking for something to watch on TV. And then, as the war wears on, we can anticipate a strong desire for people to “watch something else” as a relief from the war, and to that end the ability to use home video to counter-program their TVs will be very attractive, and business may be brisk. That seems to have been the upshot of our last major war in 1991 with the very same fellow we're rattling our sabers at now.

I would encourage anyone managing a home video rental or retail business to keep this role in mind. People (customers, your employee, yourself) will be unsettled, weary, looking for something to momentarily relieve the tension they cannot really be avoided for long, until the conflict is over. They're walking into your store literally for relief. So make sure you do what you can to deliver that. Be mindful of what new releases you may be screening on your in-store monitors…I would guess we would probably like to see anything other than some actioner with a lot of shooting and things blowing up. Maybe create a special display of new or previously viewed video that's features a selection of comedies and family product that people can watch together.

Above all, you and your employees can have a positive impact in the way you serve customers, distracted as we all may seem. A friendly face and conversation about anything other than the war will make their experience in your store a better one and keep them coming back during what will be difficult times for all.

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