Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Death Of The Clean, Well-Lighted Movie Place

I remember when Electronics Boutique was a premium retail location.

My good friend John Harwood was the manager of EB in a local mall, which is how I met him, and his store was amazing. I still remember the drive out there at lunchtime, looking forward to picking up the newest game and staying to talk about gaming for a while.

The long, slow decline began when EB suddenly started carrying all kinds of trading cards and non-gaming merchandise. Then they started selling used games.

John was long gone by this time, so he didn't have to suffer through the shrinkage of shelf space for new games, the increasing space for used games, and the used car salesman approach to customers. It took years, but Electronics Boutique went from being a premium location to being a used game flea market.

Part of this change was reflected in the merchandising of the store. It just looked down market. The store started getting very cluttered, and the general feel of the store became completely incoherent.

I was reminded of this today when I went to Blockbuster, looking to rent a copy of the newly-released Blu-ray version of Ghostbusters. I remember Blockbuster as well-organized and merchandised.

A clean, well-lighted movie store, so to speak.

I obviously haven't been to Blockbuster in quite a while, though, because boy, has it changed. They used to get all the new releases every Tuesday, but when I tried to rent Ghostbusters, one store didn't have it, and a second store said they only had new copies to sell. The clerk at the second store said it would be a week before they had rental copies.

Well, that's certainly timely.

The merchandising has completely changed, too. It's vintage flea market, with a huge amount of space being given to used discs. In short, it looks exactly like EB did when it became a place you went to as a last resort.

I understand that business models will change over time to what is perceived as the most profitable strategy. What I can't figure out, though, is why selling used products seems to require the crapification of merchandising and the general collapse of order.

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