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Blockbuster Rolling Out New Test Stores

25 Apr, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Blockbuster Inc. is getting a makeover. The chain has quietly transformed 13 stores in the Dallas area into research zones aimed at gauging consumer response to a variety of changes, including offering 6 a.m. store openings, beverage bars, consumer electronics, kids' areas, Wi-Fi access and new signage, among other changes.

The Dallas-based No. 1 DVD rental company last week began installing Blu-ray displays at its 4,800 company stores, featuring a 42-inch HDTV playing movies via a Sony PlayStation 3 game console.

Sony and studios reportedly are underwriting many of the costs associated with the $5,000 kiosks.

Since becoming CEO, Jim Keyes — former chief executive at 7-Eleven — said he is determined to transition Blockbuster's locations from a pure rental play to entertainment convenience retailer — a strategy that underscores the company's acquisition attempt of Circuit City Stores.

“I'm a big believer of the physical relevance of a store,” Keyes told The Dallas Morning News. “We need to change our stores to become a destination for entertainment.”

The paper reported that a prototype Blockbuster location touting technology and DVDs recently sold its first HDTV, a 40-inch Sony Bravia.

Spokesperson Karen Raskopf said it was too early to determine what the long-term plans with the prototype stores were.

“Our goal is to enable customers to tell us what they like through their purchases and rentals, so that as we transform Blockbuster we're doing it with the changing needs of entertainment customers in mind,” she said.

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