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Video Retailers Happy to Let It Snow

20 Feb, 2003 By: Jessica Wolf

The snowstorms that struck much of the Northeast this week were mostly blessings to video retailers. Business was generally up, particularly in the parts of New York, New Jersey and other states where school was out due to the heavy snow and the Presidents' Day holiday.

But gains were tempered by the fact that on days when the snow was the heaviest, some people couldn't get out of their houses and some retailers couldn't get into their stores.

“For most of our customers, business has been up,” said Steve Scavelli, president of Flash Distributors, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Some retailers had trouble getting their stores open on Monday, but by Tuesday they were all open and reporting robust business.”

Scavelli said weather reports warning of the coming storm sent people scurrying to video stores to stock up over the weekend. “They knew the storms were coming, so they rented three or four movies instead of one,” he said. Monday, however, was slow for some stores, “because nobody could get anywhere,” he said.

David Martin, a clerk at Brattleboro, VT-based First Run Video, said the cold weather definitely drew people into the store over the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, and folks were stocking up.

“Very few people that have been coming out recently just get one movie,” he said. “Most people are renting two or three at a time.” Martin added customers were avoiding the chance of unwanted late fees by taking advantage of the store's “seven titles for seven days for $7.77” rental program.

Alan Sklar, owner of Alley Video in Manhattan, said his store's urban location makes it easy for customers to get in to rent and return, but that many took advantage of the shop's delivery service during the harsh Presidents Day weather. “We have a couple of set delivery guys who trudged through and made really good tips,” he said.

Business doubled for the holiday weekend, Sklar said, and the record-breaking temperatures and snowfall drove some long-lost faces through the doors. “People were showing up who had kind of dropped off the radar,” he said. “For us, video stores aren't the competition, it's other things that take up people's time like digital cable, the Internet, shows, when something big is on TV. Fortunately, the ‘Joe Millionaire' finale showed up on a day there was snow, and we were getting a lot of business.”

Renters were big on multiple-video sets, like the recently released complete first season of “Six Feet Under,” Sklar said.

But, there were other reasons to turn to video during the holiday weekend besides warm hibernation from the harsh weather, Sklar pointed out. “What are you going to do, turn on the TV and watch war news?” he said. “People can only take bad news for so long.”

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