For this entry I’m handing over to my partner, Darcy, who has something to say..
Some of you may have seen over the past week the news that specialist retailer Silverscreen DVD has gone into administration with the possible loss of around 550 jobs. For the last two years this has been my place of work and whilst we all have been worried about the future, some of the reasons why the business ended up in the position it has has filled us with amusement. So here are some of the excuses put forward and why I think that they are wrong plus what I believe is the real reason.
1/ Bad management:
No. No way. Silverscreen was a model of retail business, with staff who knew the ins and outs of film as opposed to some stores like HMV who just don’t seem to care about their customers. Stock that reflected the fact that the stores were devoted to film in all its forms and periods. The only fault that was made business wise was the usual one of expanding far too quickly in a volatile market instead of consolidating over a couple of years. In fact, if the business is bought my advice to the new owners would be to cut the stores down to about 35 (from 65), keep most of the business down in the South-East whilst keeping some the stores in the bigger cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bluewater, Edinburgh and stop all these late night openings. Believe me, they are a waste of time and money. After 5.30, except for Christmas time, nobody is around to make it worthwhile, it’s just an obsession with HMV and Virgin who do open till late.
The net isn’t the big menace that the film studios seem to think that it is. Have you ever tried to download a film from something like Kaaza or E-Donkey? I’m sure that you’ve all seen the UNSKIPPABLE ads at the beginning of DVD’s telling us that piracy is a crime with its incredibly fast download time. Ha! If you manage to find a film on the net that you want its a good bet that’ll it be something completely different or bug ridden and most important take a day or a couple of days to download, and that’s if you’re linked to the net in the first place. Believe it or not only half the country is linked up yet and then dodgy at best. You still are in a bit of a lottery when it comes to the internet and connection. Piracy is still in the good old days of someone taping it in a cinema and then flogging it next day on the open market or going abroad and coming back with a stack of bad watching that you got from a market in Morocco.
3/ Cover mounts:
This is something that has had retail shops in a bit of an uproar of late. Cover mounts are the DVD’s that are given away free with various newspapers and retailers feel that the very fact that they are being given away in such a way devalues DVD’s in the eyes of the public. Some chains have recently started not to deal with distributors who help in such promotions. This reason is somewhat valid but ties into the real reason behind Silverscreen’s collapse, which I’ll come to.
4/ High street and internet competition:
Believe it or not, there is very little difference price-wise between any of the main shops. Unless it’s in a particular sale that copy of Band of Brothers or Buffy or 24 will cost the same no matter where you go. If it is in a sale or studio promotion then yeah, it will be different because guess what folks we’re different businesses. Silverscreen is not HMV just as HMV is not Virgin and our sales are staggered. For instance, Silverscreen had the boxset of Lee Evans in its sale last month, now its back up to full price and HMV have it in their sale ditto with the Band of Brothers. BUT, we all had the same promotion for the Disney BOGOF at the same time as well as the Simpson’s sale this month. All retailers are still at the mercy of the film studios when it comes to the sales and what goes into them. Try telling this to the ordinary public though. Also, there is a lot of small print when it comes to pricing. Silverscreen have Narnia at £14.99, a good price for a new DVD. “But” some member of the clueless public will come in and say “HMV, Virgin, Woolworth’s, and Smiths have got it at £12.99”. Yes, they have, if you buy another DVD or over £30.00 of extra crap, didn’t you read the small print on the promotions? “Oh” say the now obviously blind customer “I didn’t see that”. No, that’s because you were blinded by the £12.99 until you got to the till and then felt stupid. It’s time that the public got a lesson in economics and retail business 101, that to manufacture DVD’s or CD’s is very cheap but to create one is expensive involving rights, royalties and various cuts for the film studios, distributors and finally the shops.
The supermarkets. Ah, the supermarkets. You may think that they’re a cheaper place to buy and guess what? You’d be right, as long as you wanted only the latest releases, but want that BFI copy of Gojira or My Neighbour Totoro? Forget it. Think that if HMV or Virgin disappeared off the face of the Earth tomorrow that your local Tesco or Asda will step into fill the void and get in all those cult anime and martial arts DVD’s? Please, get real. The supermarkets are only interested in films from the last two years, and will only then stock about something in the region of about two hundred titles whereas the main specialist retailers like Silverscreen will stock over 10,000 different titles. They’re supermarkets, people. Which means that they’ll stock a little of everything and take a huge loss on selling cheaper. They can afford it, but you’ll never see smaller markets like Waitrose or Aldi selling DVD’s and there’s a reason. Besides, think about it. Unless you live next door to a supermarket it’ll generally mean you’ll have to travel there by car or bus, and how much will it cost you in petrol or fares if you do so. The saving you believe that you are making would be wiped out by one trip.
Yep, DVD’s are cheaper on the net. If you go to certain places that is. Play.com is a lot cheaper, but they only get away with it by being based in Jersey which has different tax laws to the rest of Britain. Amazon are also cheaper (but not by much), but its only free delivery if you spend over £20.00 and Amazon in all their years of trading (20 I believe) have yet to make a profit. Can you believe that? A business going that long has yet to make a profit. God knows how they keep going. Ordering that certain item that’s not readily available in this country is great but unless you’re agoraphobic there’s nothing like going into a shop and feeling something solid in your hands (but then I actually like shopping). Plus what I said about the net and connectivity above also applies.
5/ the Film Studios
There’s no denying that the studios have shot themselves in the foot over DVD. They’ve saturated the market with unwanted stock until they’ve had to put it into sales to shift units such as Shrek 2 and The Incredibles Because they’ve had such a bad time at the cinema they’ve started releasing big name titles earlier and earlier and the public have begun to realise this and start not going to the cinema even more (why go and have your evening ruined by a bunch of mouthy, slurping and mobiling chavs). The public have also cottoned onto the fact that because the studios have so much stock that the named titles are going into sales faster. The film companies need to get a better grip of their release dates and create a market of expectancy, remember the days when it would take years for a title to come out? I’m not advocating a return to that but Potter, Narnia and Kong were all in the cinema around Christmas and now they are in the retail shops. That’s too fast a turn around and creating a market of compliancy. Much better for films such as these to have appeared on the shelves around September or Christmas-time
So, in the end what’s the reason why one of the best retail chains in recent years is having problems? Simple really. We’re all CHEAP BASTARDS. Yep. You, me, Sarah. We’re all CHEAP BASTARDS. We’ve lost the value of anything and don’t realise that DVD’s are technology, and guess what? Technology costs. We don’t want to pay what is a decent price for something that costs a fair bit to manufacture. “£15.99 for the latest Harry Potter!” you hear the cry. “I don’t want to pay that. I want to pay £2.99 or nothing. Why’s it so expensive?” Well that’s because you’re all CHEAP BASTARDS! “I can get that for less in my supermarket (not knowing how much it’ll cost you to get there)” “Well why don’t you go there and stop bugging us you FUCKING CHEAP BASTARD!” And I’m not kidding about this. The times I’ve had someone walk out of the store because they couldn’t find any of the £2.99 films we had in the dump bins (too lazy to look) or “its cheaper in HMV” (yeah, because we had it in our sale last month and you were too much of a FUCKING CHEAP BASTARD to get it then and now it moved out of our sale and into HMV’s/ Virgins sale). We’ve learned to wait about three months until we know that a popular title will go into a sale (believe me, Potter, Narnia and Kong will be in sales around September/October), and that’s because we’re all CHEAP BASTARDS. “My DVD player won’t play this DVD or its skips” we’ve heard you wail. Well, that’s because you’re a CHEAP BASTARD who bought a £30.00 DVD player off the market and expect it to do everything. Even now, a multi-region, decent DVD player should cost over £150.00. Expect to pay nothing less. “My DVD won’t play” we still hear you wail. “What machine have you got? “ “A Playstation 2 or Xbox” “Will yeah, you moron. That’s because they are really games consoles, not DVD players. Go out a buy a dedicated DVD player and leave the consoles to your 16 year-old gamer, GTA, guns and niggaz wank fantasies”. And that’s it really. We’re all CHEAP BASTARDS who don’t want to pay the real going rate because we’ve all been conditioned not to demand the best and to pay for it, but to expect it, get it cheap and then moan when it goes wrong and expect someone else to fix it. But HD-DVD is coming soon and then you’ll have to pay whether you like it or not, oh yes, you’ll pay and then wonder why there’s no real competition on the high streets and you can’t get the DVD you want.
Thanks to Sarah for letting me use her blog in this way. All the views put forward here are my own so you can kiss my hairy ass because you’re all CHEAP BASTARDS!