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Sun and Fun at Sunsplash

12 Aug, 2003 By: Thomas K. Arnold

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — As usual, much of Sunsplash revolved around fun and frolic.

There was a deep-sea fishing cruise, a golf tournament, a volleyball match, a kids Olympics and a night out at the Barefoot Country Club for a retro-rock show.

But there was also a heavy emphasis on education. Indeed, the national VSDA used Sunsplash to kick off its Institute for Store Managers program with a two-course Beta test. Eighteen attendees paid $30 each to attend the sessions, which once the program is up and rolling will cost $30 per course. Ultimately, said VSDA membership VP Mark Fisher, there will be 15 courses, 12 required and three electives, and graduates will be certified. Lessons will be available live as well as online.

“DVD has brought new life to our industry, and the retailers who come here — and who came to our national convention in July — are real retailers who run their businesses seriously,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the Institute for Store Managers is designed to provide video store managers with more specific training “than they could get off the shelf.” For example, he said, a book on sexual harassment wouldn't address the vagaries that might arise “if you have an adult section in the back of your store.”

One of the most heavily attended seminars was “eBay University,” in which Nick Pifani, an instructor from the online auction house, pitched eBay as an ideal vehicle to sell off used or excess inventory or to buy additional product.

He noted that several studios, including Artisan Home Entertainment, regularly use eBay's Wholesale Lots section to dispose of surplus inventory. Artisan, in fact, recently chalked up the largest-ever Wholesale Lots video sale, dumping 305,000 VHS cassettes at an average unit price of 56 cents.

Pifani recommended lots of 50 to 500 pieces, and gave the pros and cons of breadth versus depth. And he pointed out that while most retailers sell used product, 9 percent of video sellers sell new product purchased through traditional distribution.

“We've got one retailer in New Jersey who's taking in about $250,000 a month,” Pifani said. “He buys direct from distributors.”

The eBay seminar was scheduled at the behest of VSDA chairman Tom Warren, owner of the 10-store Video Hut chain and a longtime member of the Carolinas VSDA Chapter. Warren said since last October, he's sold $65,000 worth of used product online.

“Retailers need to learn about eBay,” Warren said. “People don't use it out of fear — they think they might get on and spend $10,000 by accident. They need to be exposed to it.”

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