Target DVD and Blu-ray section with single kiosk viewing option (Media Play News staff photo).

Thomas K. Arnold

Home entertainment retail is on the ropes.

The buzzword of the moment is “direct to consumer”. Streaming continues to gobble up more and more of consumers’ home entertainment dollars – more than 80%, according to the latest DEG figures, for the first quarter of this year. And while transactional spending appears to be holding up, disc sales remain in freefall, with the latest quarterly spend reports showing that consumers’ purchases of DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays accounted for less than 5% of total home entertainment. expenses.

It’s no wonder big retailers like Best Buy and Walmart are shrinking their physical media sections. I shudder to think what the end result of all of this will be – will there come a day when physical media will have completely disappeared from major retailers, and if we want to buy a DVD or Blu-ray disc, we will we have to go to a website studio or that great e-commerce aggregator, Amazon.com?

For me, at least, it’s a scary thought. I’ve always enjoyed the retail experience – the search, the discovery – from when I was a teenager eagerly browsing the cut-out bins of Tower Records, The Wherehouse and Licorice Pizza (the store, not the movie ) to the more recent days of Suncoast and the Virgin Megastore, with vast inventories of what seemed like every movie ever made.

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Maybe that’s why a few years ago I resurrected my vinyl record albums, bought a new turntable, and asked Chuck Berry (my sound engineer, not the late rock pioneer) about everything plug into my home theater system. I regularly visit used record stores and also spend at least an hour a day on Discogs and/or eBay. The philosophical question I ask myself is, do I visit these stores because I’m a record collector or am I a record collector so I can visit these stores and enjoy the retail experience?

Hard to say.

I will say that I enjoy Netflix as much as anyone, with Discovery+ right behind. But there’s so much good stuff that isn’t on any of the streaming services that I regularly visit digital retailers like Vudu and Redbox On Demand to check out what’s available. And I really wish there was at least one big record store with thousands of different titles – not just to buy, but to browse and maybe get familiar with something I never thought of, nor even known.

But, alas, there is no such store, at least not near me.

I understand the concept and benefits of direct-to-consumer selling. The absence of a middleman means higher profits for the brand and hopefully lower prices for the consumer. But as a consumer, I feel like I’ve lost something – the joys of research and discovery, which I can still do online at the handful of third-party digital retailers who buck the trend. DTC, but even that isn’t as rewarding as researching and discovering new movies and shows in a physical environment.

I fear there is also an element of self-fulfilling prophecy. As physical media sections shrink, the lack of choice leads to even less business, which, in turn, leads to even smaller sections.

I sincerely hope that we never reach the proverbial point of no return – even if, in a way, we are already there.