Blockbuster video stores in Colorado Springs used to be as common as 7-Elevens; it seemed there was one on every street corner.
Now, Blockbuster is about to vanish from the local retail landscape. The Springs' last Blockbuster store, at 3790 E. Woodmen Road, closes at 5 p.m. Sunday. All of its DVDs and games are being sold, as are fixtures, furniture and equipment.
It's not just the last Blockbuster in the region; it also apparently is the last general-interest, bricks-and mortar store in the area to rent movies and videos, according to a check of online telephone listings. Dozens of chain, independent and mom-and-pop video rental stores - other than adult bookstores - also have closed through the years.
Blockbuster struggled financially for years, but all video rental stores became victims of changing technology and shifting consumer habits.
Fifteen to 20 years ago, movie lovers perused store shelves at Blockbuster, Hollywood video and local rental stores, looking for the latest releases, movie classics and the like on VHS and later on DVD.
But new business models and technology eroded the stores' customer base. Netflix delivers DVDs by mail and- along with Hulu and other online services - streams television and movies to laptops and personal computers. Public libraries have DVDs to check out; Redbox has video rental vending machines outside dozens of stores; and cable and satellite providers offer pay movies.
Retail specialist John Egan of NAI Highland Commercial Group in the Springs says his family has both DirecTV and Netflix.
"That's the way things are going to be," Egan said. "That kind of information is going to be transferred electronically. It's easier and it's more convenient."
A decade ago, Blockbuster had as many as 9,000 stores nationwide, according to news reports. But as Netflix emerged as a powerhouse entertainment provider, Blockbuster began a free fall.
In the last decade, the company closed thousands of stores before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010. Blockbuster was purchased out of bankruptcy by suburban Denver-based Dish Network, which launched its own DVD-by-mail service to challenge Netflix. In November, Dish announced it would close 300 remaining corporate-owned stores and discontinue the mail service, although about 50 franchised locations will remain open.
Blockbuster and the bricks-and-mortar video rental industry aren't the only victims of the digital age and changing consumer habits. Newspaper subscribers and advertisers have migrated to digital publications; consumers pay bills on-line instead of mailing them; and book lovers download novels and other publications to mobile devices.
Those changes should serve as warnings to other segments of the retail industry, Egan said.
Bricks-and-mortar stores must make sure they're competitively priced with online retailers - and market themselves so that consumers know their prices are on par with Amazon and others, he said.
Stand-alone stores also need to examine their overhead costs as they compete with digital retailers. Some retailers, such as Best Buy, already are downsizing the size of some of their buildings, Egan said.
Bricks-and-mortar stores also have to ramp up customer service, he said. Sales representatives must have an expert knowledge of products and services or they'll risk losing shoppers to online competitors.
"The retailer has to be educated, so that when a customers goes in," Egan said, "they don't leave without buying."
Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228
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