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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Former West Coast Begins New Era

23 Mar, 2001 By: Joan Villa

Fifty-six newly acquired West Coast Entertainment locations have added some 1,000 video units per store, hiked new release ordering by 25% to33% and required district managers to work in-store in a bid to raise ailing revenues.

C.e.o. Mark Jasperson of new parent company Phoenix Restructuring Group, a division of Video One Liquidators of Tampa, Fla., says he has nearlycompleted the first two steps in his turn-around plan: to "stabilize corporate structures" and boost inventory. New release buying is heavily skewed toward DVD, which Jasperson says has been doubled from last month'slevels when he became the new owner of the last 56 stores in the West Coast chain.

The next step is to "re-examine" rental pricing and plan an advertising promotion to bring back lost customers. Over the next three to four months, each store will be "reintroduced" to the public with new grand openings and mailer coupons.

The company has already completed a move to a new headquarters in Philadelphia, retaining 22 corporate employees, although management levels have been "flattened" to reflect the chain's smaller size.

"Rather than get rid of district managers as we've downsized, we've implemented a requirement that they work in the stores to keep in touch with local markets," Jasperson notes. "We're trying to preserve the best talent and rebuild the stores from the inside out."

The stores, operating under the names West Coast Video, Palmer Video, Video Giant and Videosmith, are located primarily in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts.

Jasperson purchased the stores, corporate assets and the right to the West Coast name after providing a "substantial cash infusion" to creditors -- led by PNC Bank Group -- to save the chain from a "severe financialcrisis" that could have shuttered the company. Currently, only four of the remaining locations are being considered for closure, he says.

Following the acquisition, Jasperson acknowledged that revenues had been faltering at the stores he purchased, but insisted that any problems could be rectified with "good management, good product and good marketing."

Former West Coast management, led by restructuring advisor Alan Jacobs acting as co-c.e.o., filed a Jan. 29 request with the Securities & Exchange Commission to delist the company' stock -- trading as WCEC on the OTC BulletinBoard -- and discontinue public reporting requirements.

The original West Coast is expected to file for bankruptcy within days asa formality to notify unsecured creditors that the corporation has no remaining assets and is no longer operating as a going concern.

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