Stream­ing killed the DVD rental store

Central Leader - - SITUATIONS VACANT - DILEEPA FON­SEKA

‘‘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.’’

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