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This article was published 4/11/2011 (2900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE demise of the biggest big-box player in the movie-rental industry is paying dividends for the little guys.
The bankruptcy of Blockbuster earlier this year and subsequent closing of its entire chain of stores has prompted many DVD and Blu-ray renters to visit their neighbourhood video stores when searching for the latest cinematic offerings from Hollywood.
"Our rentals have gone up dramatically," said John Tropak, owner of a trio of Video Cellar locations in Winnipeg.
"Since Blockbuster closed down, the number of places where people can rent videos has really dropped. We're seeing some people coming back to the stores who haven't been here for a long time."
Rudy Cavallo, owner of Rudy's Video & Convenience in The Maples, is welcoming back customers after a lengthy absence, too.
"Our sales are up about 15 per cent (since Blockbuster closed). We're the closest thing for a lot of people. Some people I haven't seen in years. They told me, 'I've been busy.' Well, they were going to Blockbuster; they just don't want to say it," he said.
While the younger generation increasingly gets its movie fix online, there is a significant segment of the population that doesn't have computers or Internet connections and likes to venture out to rent a movie, local shop owners say.
Cultivating a good rapport with local residents and businesses has paid off for Viewers Choice Video on St. Anne's Road, according to manager Scott McNabb.
"It's gotten a lot busier here. We've been getting five or six new members a day, on average. We've had to up our orders on everything and stock up to meet the demand of all the people coming in. (Blockbuster going out of business) has been pretty darn good for us," he said.
Plenty of other video stores have come and gone since Viewers Choice put up its shingle 20 years ago, and many of them recommended Viewers Choice to their customers when they closed their doors, McNabb said.
Both Tropak and Cavallo saw the writing on the wall years ago and sought to diversify their retail space. Instead of row upon row of movies, they also have aisles of as many convenience store items as possible.
"I sell chips, cookies, ice cream and even oil for your car. Some video stores didn't diversify and they got killed," Cavallo said.
Tropak said attracting customers with low prices has enabled him to survive and thrive. Offering parents a free kids movie rental when they come in with their offspring hasn't hurt, either.
"One of my customers told me whenever he took his kids to Blockbuster, they wouldn't stop crying. That's good for me," he said.
Rogers taking a different path
The last remaining big-box store in the movie-rental business has no intention of following the same dead-end path as Blockbuster.
The strategy behind Rogers Plus locations in Winnipeg and across the country is to offer one-stop shopping for all their customers' entertainment and communication needs. That means if you walk in to rent a DVD, you could also peruse the latest in cellphones, other wireless devices or games to hit the market or its "Rocket" wireless sticks.
"We know customer demand is changing," said Leigh-Ann Popek, Toronto-based senior manager of public affairs at Rogers Communications. "They want variety in their service models. There's dramatic growth in 'any time, anywhere' content. We have a very different business model than Blockbuster had. It's a more integrated experience. We're not just renting videos, we look at what customers want and what their needs are. We've evolved."