Streaming killed the DVD rental store
‘‘It's certainly a twilight industry, it's just a matter of when’’
It is the passing of an era. The closure of a once loved suburban shopping strip store.
There was a time when the local video rental store was a hive of activity each night as families sorted out their evening entertainment.
Stocking up on soft drink, popcorn and VHS, then as the times moved, DVDs. Now digital has killed the video star.
In New Lynn, Auckland, the door will close for the last time on its local United Video store - one of many to be lost across NZ.
When Hamlata Solanki and her husband Ramesh bought their United Video New Lynn store 12 years ago, the video rental business was booming, they had four computers and four staff operating day and night.
Hamlata said she tried everything to save her video store, including adding a two-dollar shop to help pay the rent.
‘‘People would still think it was a video shop and nobody would bother to enter,’’ Solanki said.
Two years after the Solankis bought their business the number of United Video outlets peaked at 104 stores nationwide. Now there are just 39 outlets across the country.
Solanki said the growth of online streaming video services saw their store customer base decline by 80 per cent.
Once or twice a month one new customer would sign up, rent a title they couldn’t stream, and never come back again.
Unable to pay for staff, the Solankis found themselves sitting alone in their store watching people file in and out of the Salvation Army shop next door.
Lindsay Hall, general manager of United Video says the group had a turnover close to $20 million last year, down from a peak of around $100m.
‘‘It’s certainly a twilight industry, it’s just a matter of when.’’
Successful franchise stores could still expect to make a 15 to 20 per cent net profit, Hall said.
‘‘It’s a matter of adding them on to an existing business in many cases.’’
‘‘There’s still a lot of people out there that don’t have computers or don’t want to download.’’
The Solankis would have left the business earlier if the landlord had let them out of their lease.
Now, their lease is up and the remaining stock is being sold off.
‘‘Because of the internet, because of Netflix, nobody wants to go to a video store, everything has changed.’’