Video stores do it tough against online competition


April 01, 2013 09:52:37

For more than 20 years, the Network Video store at Paddington in Brisbane’s inner-west has been something of a cultural institution for film buffs.

But owner Simon Shaw says his customers are increasingly buying and renting movies online.

He says he has done all he can to stay in business, including selling his house, but now he has reluctantly decided to close up shop.

“We were going quite well until about three, four years ago – possibly co-incidentally with the introduction of ADSL and high-speed internet, and really since then it’s been a pretty dramatic decline,” he said.

“We are probably turning over a third of what we were three or four years ago.”

Mr Shaw has received hundreds of cards, gifts and messages of support from customers, including film-maker Dean Saffron.

“You could come in and go ‘look, what’s the latest thing from France’,” Mr Saffron said.

“He would not only explain it with great passion and sometimes anger and tears and you felt like before you even bought a video you felt that you knew the characters and you can’t get that looking from online.”

The number of video stores across Australia has halved in the last 10 years, but moving to online viewing is a challenge for many people who are not tech-savvy.

Dedicated customers

Randy Vellacot has been visiting the Paddington store since it first opened.

“It is an experience – even if it’s cheap Tuesday night I’ll come with my son and we walk around we find something interesting and we’ll take it home and we’ll watch it,” Mr Vellacot said.

“It is a social experience – I think it’s a bit clinical getting it online.”

But Mr Shaw simply does not have enough dedicated customers like Mr Vellacot.

“The emotions of people has been what’s hit me hardest – I don’t even know if I can talk about it,” Mr Shaw said.

Industry ‘plateau’

However, the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association (AVRRA) says there is still hope for the industry despite the nationwide closures.

AVRRA executive director Ross Walden says it has reached a plateau.

“We are at the end of seeing that rationalisation stage and those that are now still in the industry we believed as an association will have a good return on their investment in their business,” he said.

But for Mr Saffron, the closure of his local video store is the end of an era.

“This is a cultural place for Paddington where everyone congregates, as soon as we knew that video was dying like CDs or records or any of that – it was a sad thing” he said.


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