Most weekends, like this one, I’ll venture out in the wild world of retail and start looking for stuff to buy. Usually DVDs, because I like movies a lot and I’m trying to complete my collection. I have a really hard time finding anything to buy for one of three reasons: the stores don’t stock what I want, I already have whatever they regularly stock or the prices are just too high.
Normally the problem is one of the first two issues, and has to do with stocking what I want. The problem with store stock is that they cover both ends of the specturum of movie quality and popularity, but never a wide variety of good stuff in the middle. One one hand you have major retail stores (Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Shop-Ko, K-Mart, Fred Meyer) that always stock pretty much the same stuff – - whatever’s newly released that week, and then a small library of popular titles that are more likely to sell. On the other hand you have the local used CD and DVD stores which stock a wide variety, but for the most part it’s usually stuff that people don’t want to watch anyway. If a large portion of their business model is accepting used goods that someone didn’t want in the first place, then what are my chances of finding something I want? Going to the large retailers means I’m looking for a good bargain and hoping that they might miraculously dip into the larger market of “good movie, not as high sales.” The local stores is like starting at rock bottom and hoping that somewhere in the wide selection you’ll manage to find something that rises slightly above the level of crap that is worth watching and owning.
It’s a frustrating trend because there aren’t any brick and mortar store that just sells one of everything in the middle. The problem will persist as well, since it doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective to do anything about it. The local stores couldn’t afford to buy a lot of DVDs and sell them for new because their prices would be higher. The major retail chains could undercut the local stores on price, but they’re always only going to waste their precious floorspace on something that has a much higher chance of selling.
Thankfully, Amazon is on the scene to sell me everything I want that’s in the long tail. I think it’s safe to say that probably half of my DVD collection is from them. They’re not paying high rental prices for a shop on the corner, so they can afford to stock one of everything in some warehouse probably in the middle of nowhere. Their prices are semi-competetive, but the real issue is that they are the ones who have the selection I want. Even if they don’t have it in stock, at least online retailers have a product page, so other people can list theirs as used.
Shopping online is the complete opposite of browsing in the store. Online you can know ahead of time exactly what you’re looking for (wish lists) and your time is spent mostly debating whether or not it falls into your price range or not. Going to the stores though, it’s a miracle just if I find something that I want to buy. What’s really interesting though is even though I know my chances are around 5 to 10 percent of finding something locally, I still go out almost every weekend looking. I’m always optimistic that I just *might* find something this time. You never know. Sometimes I do get lucky.
Another huge variable in this equation though is my personal preference. I’m not into most of the mainstream interests, so my chances of finding something like “Jack the Giant Killer” or “Winsor McCay – The Master Edition” in a store are slim to none in the first place. Naturally nobody’s to blame for that except for me.
Still, I really wish there was a store that had “one of everything.” There’s just something about going to the store and having it right then that is way cooler than waiting a few days for it to arrive in the mail. I think it’s more than just impulse shopping, though I’m not sure what. Interesting stuff, anyway.