This past weekend I was bumming around while I waited for my wife to finish with her gym class and came across a Borders bookstore that was covered in signs proclaiming “Everything Must Go!” Not one to pass up an opportunity to save, or possibly kill 10 minutes, I went inside. I was greeted by what appeared to be the aftermath of some sort of shopping disaster – I’m serious: the store was missing ceiling tiles and carpet on account of the fact that they too were for sale. Remember, everything had to go.
Sitting front and center was Borders’ remaining Blu-ray stock and I, like many of you, thought here we go as I glanced at the large sign overhead that screamed 50 percent off all Blu-rays. Thinking I was going to score some 1080p love for half price, I rushed over only to discover that the so-called deal was no deal at all. Borders has always been notoriously overpriced when it came to their DVDs, CDs and even Blu-rays, sometimes charging $10 or more than the competition. Apparently, even in death, Borders failed to learn from their mistakes, for the first three Blu-ray discs I grabbed were all priced $45.99 making their half-off price $22.99 plus tax. No deal. It would be one thing if the three discs I was holding were special editions or box sets but they were not – they were movie only Blu-ray discs, the kind I can buy at Best Buy, Target or Wal-Mart for between $14.99 and $19.99 all day. Don’t even get me started on online prices.
I now understand why and how companies as large as Borders can be sinking faster than the Titanic, for they simply failed to, or were unable to, compete with today’s value conscious consumer. It’s not that I am too cheap to pay $23 for a Blu-ray; it’s just I’m more savvy and if I’m buying a stripped, bare-bones disc I simply expect it to cost less than $20, for that is what I deem to be fair. It gets worse for Borders and others like them because downloads and streaming are becoming more prevalent and while they may not possess the resolution or performance of their physical counterparts, they have a perceived value, one that is rooted in our ever-growing need for convenience. And then there is the issue of Internet media all together, which basically goes like this – if I can watch it or listen to it on the Internet then it should be free, hence why iTunes downloads are getting cheaper and Hulu Plus subscriptions haven’t really ignited a firestorm.
Read more about what the AV industry can learn from Borders on Page 2.
As much as audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts gripe about how
downloadable music and streaming video are signs of the apocalypse,
there’s no getting around the fact that it’s WINNING. We either adapt
or get the hell out of its way because John Doe Consumer with a Vizio HDTV, cheap Insignia Blu-ray player
and HTIB doesn’t care about your turntable, nor does he/she truly
understand what makes HD different from SD beyond what the salesman
told them. That’s reality even if it’s sad. It’s our job as enthusiasts
to support those who provide high resolution software and high
performance equipment but at the same time we could use a little help
in getting modern HD content into our systems at a reasonable price.
Another reality: the specialty AV industry has had its head in the
sand and its fingers in its ears screaming la-la-la-la while the rest
of the world passed it by and only now has it begun to get with the
times. Though, like Borders, it has to quickly figure out ways to
increase its value proposition either by lowering prices, making better
products, supplying better customer service or all of the above – or it
too will suffer the same fate that has befallen many recently. And if
it fails to do so it, like Borders, will watch the customer, me, walk
out empty handed and looking for the next, bigger, better, deal. And
that deal may or may not be AV equipment or software.