Remake for rental chains

Can DVD rental stores fight the threat from on-line and video on-demand rivals with engaging and interactive interiors? Trish Lorenz tunes in

Film is all about passion and emotion, from the sense of anticipation as the lights go down in the cinema to the feeling of contentment found nestling on the sofa to watch an old black and white movie on a rainy day.

But the process of buying or renting a film is far from inspiring, and store formats in the sector remain firmly stuck in the 1980s. Lacklustre racks of DVD cases line the walls, accompanied by little more than dull carpets and an impulse-buy sweets counter.

Perhaps as a result, the market is struggling. A Verdict report released last month is gloomy about its future. ‘The boom days of the music and video market are over and will not return,’ it says.

According to the report, supermarkets and on-line retailers ‘are in pole position’ to own the market, having raised their sales in the sector from £1 in every £9 to £1 in every £3 over the past five years. They will continue to ‘pile pressure on high street music and video retailers’, it claims.

ChoicesUK is the country’s second largest rental chain and commercial director Neil Muspratt concedes the market is changing. ‘Without a doubt, people are buying DVDs rather than renting them,’ he says. ‘Our business mix has changed and our formats and layout need to adapt.’

The retailer launched a Design House-created rebrand and store refit last week, that sees it embracing a more emotional positioning (DW 25 August). According to Design House executive creative director Mike Booth, the work ‘brings to life the huge range of emotional impacts’ that film can have on people.

The updated store formats are brighter, more colourful and employ a more emotive tone of voice. But at their heart they remain essentially the same, retaining the racks of games and videos. And with the growing popularity of websites such as www.lovefilm.com, which offer an almost limitless selection of DVD titles, the flexibility of 24-hour access and no rental deadlines, these relatively small, cosmetic changes to interiors may not be enough.

According to Verdict, up to 30 independent video stores close each week. A more fundamental overhaul may be needed if they are to survive.

In Australia, Red Room DVD, which opened three stores in Sydney last month, has taken a more radical approach. Graphics, information technology and interiors – bright red, functional and modern – were designed by Landini Associates in Australia.

Instead of racks of films, Red Room DVD offers interactive ‘movie stations’ with touch screens. The stations allow customers to browse by new release or genre categories, watch trailers, access pictures and read critics’ reviews of selected films.

The chosen DVD is ejected from a dispensing podium that doubles as the cashier, by allowing customers to swipe their credit card. Interactive stations are also located outside the store, operating 24 hours a day.

‘Convenience was paramount, but the creative brief also focused on giving customers more interactivity,

allowing them to select films on individual criteria,’ explains Landini managing partner Stephen Cribbett. ‘Interiors are designed to [transmit] energy, excitement and simulate the experience you have in a cinema.’

It seems like a step in the right direction – embracing convenience, acknowledging the emotional connection we have with film and making use of the latest technology. Perhaps one day choosing your film might be almost as much fun as watching it.

A gloomy outlook for rental market

• Low-priced DVD and on-line rental has hit traditional video rental market hard

• Even on-line DVD may only be an interim solution – video on-demand has the potential to replace the existing rental shop model

• Video rental stores must adapt to survive

Source: Verdict on Music & Video Retailing 2005

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