Blockbuster Should Have Gone Chapter 7

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sxc - Fork - 1094232_weeding_fork Wednesday, Fast Company FC Expert Blogger Adrian Ott posted an article, “Do You Have the Same Blind-Spot as Blockbuster?”  If you’ve got a moment, it’s worth reading.  I think you’ll agree it’s an interesting article and hints at the Blockbuster saga being a source of many case studies (HBR, anyone?) for years to come.

The article spends a disproportionate amount of time, well, talking about ‘time.’  Yes, if we have two roughly equivalent choices, one requiring half the time of the other, we’ll select the one requiring less time. Every time.

For me, the Netflix | Blockbuster comparison didn’t quite work.  Yes, I do understand why Netflix has proven a very viable competitor.  But Netflix is a different animal for me.  Netflix is a new version of ‘DVD rental.’  Years ago, when the price of DVDs fell to a simple multiple of renting it, my family simply started buying them.  For those who prefer a rental, or ‘service’, type approach, Netflix can be a winner.

But there’s more to it than just ‘time.’

Have you been in a Blockbuster store recently? I was just a couple weeks ago after visiting the pet supply store next door.  It reminded me of any number of extinct retail outlets from my past.  Stores are dingy; layouts haven’t changed in a decade; displays are uninspiring (sheets over fold-up tables…); and, their product focus makes me think of bloodshot eyes.  Are they there to sell me movies, or rent them; sell me gaming console games, or rent them; or, push (what seems to be) a large volume of ‘used’ products?

A few years ago, Best Buy started carrying a selection of DVDs comparable to Blockbuster.  Once that realization hit, that’s where we started going.  Right then, I remember thinking, “Blockbuster’s doomed.”

Go to your local Best Buy, head toward the DVD/Blu-ray/’video’ area and that is what you find there.  Not a mishmash of stuff.  Even in a small Best Buy location, the square footage dedicated to video is the size of an entire Blockbuster store (aforementioned) and much more densely stocked.  On top of it, the Best Buy is more brightly lit and ‘looks’ the part of a successful, going concern.

My casual observation is that Blockbuster became entrenched, lost it’s sense of anxiety, and arrogant.  Anxiety gave way to complacency and now the ‘trench’ is too deep to climb out of.

My prediction: Blockbuster should have filed for Chapter 7 and gotten it over with.  They’re done:  stick a fork in ’em. They’re simply putting off the (almost certainly) inevitable.  I wish them the very best in their efforts to survive.  Really.  Even the terminally ill can experience miraculous recoveries.

(photo credit: Matt Palmer)

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