Video rental stores around the country have slowly been shutting up shop, becoming less relevant in customers’ lives as the Netflix’s and Apple TVs of the world take over. United Sweets CEO Finn Puklowski isn’t claiming to have the solution to save them, but he’s got an idea up his sleeve that might just help the stores still standing.
Puklowski believes combining United Video stores with Game Flip, a game store he’s created that lets you rent, buy and trade in games, will help increase foot traffic – and rentals.
“You get people through the door and you can convert them and you continue to get an uptake in rental,” he says.
He readily admits that the video rental retail industry isn’t the most prosperous, but says it’s about being innovative and trying new things to evolve with customers’ tastes.
“It’s not the necessity of the model being successful or that’s it’s a genius idea, it’s a calculated idea,” Puklowski says.
“But what we want to push out there is if you don’t change, its over. Our slogan is adapt or die. You have to be able to change to your market; you can’t change your market.”
“If we fail in this, its fine, we’ve got quite a lot of different business interests, but well continue doing it and try and change it and give it a go.”
Before you wonder why games would save DVDs, look at the statistics – gaming is big business.
According to the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, Kiwis spent a record $347 million on gaming last year.
In-store and console sales made up $130 million of that figure.
Puklowski says he wants to give multichannel gaming retail giant EB Games a run for its money, as the gaming market is so monopolised in New Zealand.
Game Flip offers game rentals to United Video’s one million strong existing user base and promises to beat EB Games’ price on games.
It also gives cash to customers who sell their games to the shop, while EB Games only gives store credit.
The 24-year-old entrepreneur is no stranger to taking risks.
He’s the CEO of United Sweets, a successful global sweet importing franchise that is driven by e-commerce and social media.
Since launching in 2011, the United Sweets Facebook page has amassed an impressive 101,000 likes and expanded into 11 stores in malls nation wide.
Now he’s taking on the video rental industry, with Puklowki’s family-owned United Video store the first to have the new Game Flip model rolled out in January.
Since then, he says the Hamilton store has seen a revenue increase of 30 percent and a huge amount of new customers through its doors.
As well as this, changes have been made to its DVD rental model.
The focus is no longer necessarily on purchasing blockbusters, he says, it’s on having a diverse range for customers to choose from.
“The fundamentals of the industry are still massively under threat, but there’s the opportunity for a few stores to grab a foothold,” he says.
He also notes that video rental shops offer a crucial and unique service: game rental.
“There’s no access to game rental if video rental is lost.”
People can buy or sell games online, or pop into the store, which will also offer merchandise such as fanwear, cosplay and anime.
About ten to fifteen United Video stores around the country have taken up the Game Flip idea.
Though some may regard this as a bandage stuck over a much more serious wound, Puklowski says time will tell.
“I think it’s a long-term solution because there’s already an existing retail market that’s been there for a very long time,” he says.
“We’ve just done things slightly different in a way that looks after our customers.”