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EXCLUSIVE: New ECVS Exhibitors Shop Automation

5 Oct, 2002 By: Holly J. Wagner


While a few folks will be showing off new content product at this week's East Coast Video Show (ECVS), the watchword for most new exhibitors is automation.

Two of this year's new entries are showing video vending machines geared toward replacing video stores' labor demands.

V& L Tool Inc. (Booth No. 105) and Video Access Computers (VAC) Inc. (Booth No. 228) will both be promoting machines that reduce the need for store attendants. While some rentailers might argue they are already writing weekly paychecks to robots, V&L Tool Inc.'s machine “is a completely automated, unattended, DVD/video game, rental, return and sales library,” said Randy Schaefer, VP of Operations, Interactive Distribution Systems. “The machine is computer controlled, networked via the Internet and robot-driven. Customers accessing the machine need no memberships or fees.”

Customers using the machines can access 630 DVDs and video games, insert a credit card and the rental is delivered to them, via the robot, in a mater of seconds. Just like Twinkies or postage stamps.

“We have machines in some local grocery stores and they are doing very well,” Schafer said. “We will soon be in one of the colleges in Milwaukee, which will be a good test of the machine. The machines we have out thus far are owned and operated by us — we put them out as Beta test machines to prove the concept of machine renting. We are talking to a national retailer that is interested in leasing machines and putting them in their stores. So as for the model, it can be set up however our customers choose, whether it be large or small.”

Similarly, VAC will show a vending system developed in Italy.

“This vision began in 1994 when my wife and I moved back to the U.S. from Italy,” said Ronald Szuchy, CEO of VAC. “This was after I was introduced to these systems in Oderzo, Italy. Since then we began researching and working with manufactures to develop a system designed for the U.S. market. In 1999, we brought our first system to Aliquippa, PA, where we worked for several months making system software changes and other development needs. VAC now works with the one of the founding manufacturers for these systems from Italy called VideoStore and a software company called GMS.”

Both VideoStore (no affiliation with this magazine) and GMS are from Vicenza, Italy, and are exporting their years of experience working with the computers and other technical aspects of the vending systems.

VAC will exhibit three systems at the show — all the latest machines available in their line on display for the first time.

“We will be demonstrating their rental ability and the flexibility of its management software,” Szuchy said. “Also we will have staff on hand to answer questions pertaining to the machines' remote operations and functions.”

VAC and V&L Tool spokesmen tout similar benefits to rentailers: the machines' promise to expand operations with low overhead, 24/7 rental ability and a new opportunity for entrepreneurs.

EBay (Booth No. 525), often hailed as the world's largest garage sale, will be on hand to show retailers what else eBay is about.

“The question I'm asked most often at retail shows is, ‘why are you here?',” said Nick Pifani, the portal's movies and music category manager. “I still think the majority of the people don't understand what eBay is. EBay is the world's largest marketplace. Many different liquidators, retailers and distributors don't understand that eBay is a great way to move product.”

EBay runs not only its main auction site, but fixed-price site Half.com, where sellers set their prices with no haggling. The main auction site also added fixed-price sales recently. Along with telling retailers about the various options, eBay will host “eBay University” to show vendors “the overall high points of how to list and sell your items on eBay and Half.”

“Some companies are opening a storefront on eBay. Many of the partners there do video. We give them promotional placement,” Pifani said. “As far as branding another [eBay] site, I wouldn't say that is part of the intention. But we are aggressively trying to make movies a bigger part of the business. It's definitely a hot category. It's low-hanging fruit as far as products. It's an easy way to get new users because [books and video] tend to be lower-ticket items.”

CAM Commerce Solutions (Booth No. 218) has been creating retail software since 1983, but will make its debut appearance at ECVS this year.

CAM will demonstrate software that helps retailers track inventory, plan purchasing, tally rental and late fees and more, said spokeswoman Joy Puccio. Representatives from CAM want to meet video rentailers to show them how the company's software can make running a video store more efficient.

Spring-Fill Industries (Booth No. 505) isn't an automation system but it is designed to make customers' lives easier. The company will join the expo to show rentailers its new line of Under :30 DVD and CD giftwrapping sleeves. The slick, colorful, simple-to-use sleeves are a great impulse item for the holidays, as DVD's speedy adoption has made the svelte discs a gift of choice. Since they're also a great last-minute gift, the sleeve wraps offer customers a way to buy a gift and perfect-fitting wrapper at the same counter. Add tags and bows to the display and customers can get instant giftwrap, even if the disc is purchased on the fly.

A new product exhibitor this year is six-year-old Golden Shadow Pictures (Booth No. 119), which produces independent feature films and distributes them theatrically and on DVD in the United States. Golden Shadow also has a record label, Full Circle Records, which specializes in dance music; and a publishing arm, Spiral Staircase Publishing, which will release its first book, The Book of Omens, in December. Golden Shadow will raise the curtain on its new line of DVD-9 feature titles ranging the full gamut of genres from horror to fitness.

Some new exhibitors were so busy getting ready for the show, they did not have time to respond to inquiries for this story. Among the other new exhibitors are Thomas Nelson publishers, who offer a selection of self-help, Christian and other theology-oriented books, video, and audio products (Booth No. 519); buyindies.com, a Web site that features independent, educational and hard-to-find film titles (Booth No.128); and Sen Tech EAS, which offers electronic loss control systems (Booth No. 413).

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