Sunday, September 28, 2008

Lost Connection

Near my office, there's a store that sells used CDs and DVDs... they've been there a while now, maybe 15 years or more. Well I guess it has to be at least 15 years ago, because that's how old virtually all their inventory is. They recently changed how they display their wares and it made me think about how the entire store is laid out, and just how pathetically bad it is. Plus, how they seem to refuse to clear out worthless inventory. I mean, 6 faded copies of Joey Lawrence's 1992 self-titled album? Multiple copies of Pete Townsend's 1993 "Psychoderelict" ? Any copies at ALL of albums by Johnny Hates Jazz or The Best Kissers in the World or Jennifer Trynin? I actually like the Jen Trynin album, and I'm sure the others have some merit, but I've seen those exact same CDs sitting on those shelves unsold for years. And if someone didn't buy Jen's album during her 15 minutes of near fame, they're not likely to buy it now. Not to pick on these performers (well, maybe Joey "woah" Lawrence) but the shelves are literally clogged with dreck like this that will never ever ever sell ever... not even for $5.99. They have an entire section of "as-is" discs, unguaranteed to play, as if used CDs aren't dodgy enough. The displays for this crap fill about 2/3 of the store's space, space which is paid for by the square foot. In fact, the sturdy steel and aluminum displays must have been quite costly 15 years ago, so I'm sure that is the inertia excuse for keeping them filled with crap, so the shelves at least LOOK stocked. They do have a small selection of new releases, about 10 feet behind the register on high shelves -- for easy browsing, no doubt.

Until recently, the front 1/3 of the store had wire racks that displayed the fronts of DVDs for sale, so you would flip through them to look for titles, but you would at least see the covers of the packages. They've now decided to consolidate them onto a few bookshelf style racks, so you have to read the sides and don't see the alluring cover art. It also underscores just how many copies they have of the worst movies or the dodgiest public domain titles. (Frank Sinatra's "Man with the Golden Arm" stands out among them. Again, a fine movie, one of Sinatra's best film performances, but 8 copies of it?) The current system only lets 2 or 3 people browse at one time without invading one another's personal space, and it discourages casual browsing.

Now, granted, stores like this have taken a beating from "big box" retailers, online retailers, not to mention MP3 audio and filesharing. Anymore, when people buy a CD, they probably intend to keep it, having had every opportunity to sample it beforehand, so I'm sure this store has trouble getting good "used" inventory. Maybe they're just riding out a 10 year lease as they somehow bring in enough revenue to keep the lights on and pay one or two kids to mind the store. But it really seems as if they're not even trying. A friend of mine used to manage a small CD store in England (Hi Steve) so I've learned a bit about retail from him. I'm sure he's appalled at the wasted space and mismanagement of the place, and I'm certain if he could come in and point them in the right direction, and set up the space properly, they could continue to prosper instead of lingering until death or bankruptcy. But it would take some work, which obviously the owners don't want to put into the place any longer.

Sorry to have turned this into "Retail Management Today" blog, but this rant just played in my mind as I wandered into that store today, and I see the metaphor for myself and how I've fallen into similar bad habits and old-age thinking in both my day job and even the business side of my photography. Inertia and momentum are the same thing, in a sense, according to Newton, but it takes an overriding force to overcome inertia or change momentum. So, that's probably where I should be directing my energy.