I have a friend who works at one of the large indoor shopping malls here in St. Louis. He manages a small, kiosk-type restaurant in the food court. I used to work with him at a large, stand-alone restaurant and he tells me that he likes the mall better. The pay isn’t quite as good as what he was making before, but the menu is much simpler and it seems easier to attract employees. The hours are also much shorter, which gives him a lot more time to spend with his family.
But lately he’s been a little worried. The sales at his restaurant have been OK. He actually posted a small gain this holiday season over last year. The mall itself even bucked the trend, with an overall 3% increase over last year’s sales. Even with that, several stores and restaurants have closed shop and went out of business at the mall over the past few weeks. They lost one of the hamburger places in the food court and a full-service restaurant downstairs in just the past couple of days.
He was telling me that a couple of weeks before Christmas he had ordered a movie from the Suncoast store a couple of doors down. They were out of the video and said that they would order it for him. They told him that it would be there in plenty of time for Christmas. They would call him as soon as it came in. A couple of weeks passed and no phone call, so he went into the store. The store had “Going Out of Business” signs plastered all over the place. He asked about his video and they told him that they wouldn’t be getting it. They stopped ordering videos last week. So he had to go on a last minute trek to find the video on sale at another store.
The dreadful economic times we’re going through has caused a large amount of businesses to go bankrupt and close their doors, but in the case of the video store, there are other factors at work also. The Apple store at the mall posted record sales this year. The Suncoast store only sold videos, it didn’t rent them. It fell victim to the changing viewing habits of the consumer.
More and more, people are renting and buying videos online and getting them through their i-pods and computers. Now you can order up a movie at Netflicks and watch it directly on your computer. In some places you can even dial up a list of current releases and then watch them on your TV set.
Is the video store as we know it soon to become extinct? I remember when the very first video store, a place called “Movies to Go” popped up in the small town that I was living in at the time. It had formerly been a Montgomery Ward store. They had everything from kid’s movies to X-rated movies on the old VHS format. They even sold the machines, the now defunct top-loading models. The local supermarkets and even the bait shop got in on the video craze, both carrying a small selection of new releases.
Then giant Blockbuster came to town, the Wal-Mart of the video rental business. A Hollywood video came soon after. Now I hear that they are closing some Hollywood video stores and Blockbuster had a bad year also. The entertainment industry has traditionally done well during times of recession and depression. Folks who are suffering like to get away from harsh reality once-in a-while.
But times are changing much faster now. I guess the Apple guys should enjoy their success while they can.