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Indie Music Chain Expands Video Selection

30 Mar, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Amoeba Music, a San Francisco-based trio of independent music stores featuring eclectic artists and such hard-to-find fare as vinyl albums and laserdiscs, has expanded its DVD/VHS repertoire.

In the 25,000-square-foot San Francisco store on Haight, Amoeba tripled the size of its DVD/VHS selection to 3,500 square feet, replicating a growing trend among large retailers of the store-within-a-store concept.

“It's really a separate life force,” said Mike Boyter, an Amoeba co-founder, of the video department. “That's what people want. They want more DVD product because more and more people have DVD players.”

With a 12,000-square-foot location in Berkeley, Calif., on Telegraph Ave., and a 35,000-square-foot store on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles, Amoeba prides itself as the antithesis to big-box retailers that peddle commercial fare at the expense of diversity.

“We do what music stores did do and should do, which is have as broad a selection as possible, rather than just sticking to 30, 80 or 200 big hits and shoveling that down people's throats,” Boyter said. “Rather than sell 5,000 copies of the last smash hit, we are contently selling a couple hundred and having a broad catalog.”

Acknowledging that the marketing of movies represents challenges not found in music, such as the lack of a catalog, Boyter said Amoeba approaches home video intent on competing with Best Buy in addition to offering a broader selection.

“We are going to reach into more independent material, foreign films and hard-to-find releases,” he said.

Boyter said the stores' 65/35 percent mix of new and used video product will equalize throughout the year.

“We strive for a 50/50 percent mix,” he said. “As much as we are able to get hold of used DVD, whatever it is, we go for.”

Boyter agreed that video has become a savior to music retail, but he's quick to differentiate Amoeba's 6-to-1 ratio of music titles to video as proof the company isn't following in the footsteps of traditional music retail.

“We are not in the Tower [Records] situation, where we feel like we are diminishing our music inventory for movies,” he said. “But I know that is a direction that a lot of music stores have gone in.

“DVDs are growing significantly [compared to VHS], and I think there is increased demand for music DVD, so some of the increased shelf space comes at the expense of VHS. But we still sell tons of CDs.”

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