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Shelf Space Sends a Clear Message: Goodbye VHS

15 Mar, 2004 By: Stephanie Prange

You can find just about anything at Costco, from vacuum cleaners to deli meat to lawn furniture. They've even got Waterford crystal at bargain prices.

But if you're looking for non-kids' movies on VHS, you're out of luck.

During a recent visit to the popular discount store, I perused the video section and was surprised to see only a small collection of cassettes — maybe a half-dozen titles or so — all of which were children's or family titles. The display for Schindler's List on DVD was bigger.

I've been writing about this business long enough to remember a time when kids' stuff was the only thing stores and studios would sell directly to consumers. Big Disney hits like The Lion King, Barney videos and the like pretty much had the sellthrough arena to themselves. The industry for the longest time didn't think adult-themed fare, especially dramas, would sell.

Gradually, studios began to recognize romantic comedies were popular sellthrough items. Hits like Sleepless in Seattle did great numbers when they were repriced. Soon enough, studios began to bring out such collectable female-targeted fare directly to sellthrough. Even romantic dramedies like the Sandra Bullock starrer Hope Floats were hitting the sellthrough trail. Studios variously tried thrillers at a sellthrough price. Warner released the Harrison Ford thriller The Fugitive, but such titles were few and far between.

What a difference DVD makes. When all DVDs went sellthrough, all these issues fell away. All titles and genres were open to buy, and consumers bought — and are buying. Meanwhile, VHS sellthrough is caught in a time warp — all kids stuff. It looks as if VHS sellthrough will go out the way it came in. When consumers throw out their last broken VCR — no doubt tucked in a kid's room — it's history.

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