Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More is not better; neither is less

The 4Q Glut in Books & Movies

Continuing yesterday’s rant about Black Friday, the 4th Quarter itself gets my juices flowing—and not in a good way.  Today I’m speaking about the 4Q Glut of movies and books.  Both publishers and the motion picture industry have thoroughly embraced the retailers’ end-of-the year mentality.

After the Oscars, there is nothing on view at Cinema,X  except the movies that won awards (which you’ve already seen) or the latest teenage blood drool, car crash, futuristic dystopia or violent cartoon offer.  Maybe if you’re really lucky, you can watch a mash-up of them all.

The rest of us search in earnest for something, anything.  Even “On Demand” has nothing much to offer because it is also showing what you’ve already seen or would never be caught dead watching.  And the TV channels showing movies just show the same movies over and over again, with one major exception—TCM—which carries the few movies I haven’t already seen.  And now, it’s beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Then comes the 4th Quarter—particularly Thanksgiving through Christmas—and all the good movies hit the theater in time to qualify for the Oscars.  I’ve had it.  I don’t want to watch ten movies in 1-2 months.  I want them spread out over the year.  The result is:  I have to make a choice, and, if I don’t make it quick enough, the movie is already gone.  Take last year. “The Artist” hit Plymouth for one week and, then, vanished, only to turn up again after it had already won the best picture Oscar.  I had to view the movie in NYC so that I could see it before the Academy Awards.

This year, all the good movies are again showing up at once.  And I’ve had it.  I have neither the time nor the money nor the inclination to go to all of them.  I will choose the ones I absolutely, positively must see in a movie theater because it is beautifully shot or is in 3-D.  And I love going to the movies.  I love the experience of being in a theater sharing a common experience with everyone else, hearing the groans and the gasps and the awws.
The same is now true for books.  Nothing for months.  Then, it pours.  Now there are at least 15 books I’m interested in reading, both fiction and non-fiction.  And, guess what.  I’ll have to make a choice that is not based necessarily on what I want to read, but what seems the easiest (how the easiest is determined is an article in itself), or what I have time for, or whatever.  So, next April, when I’m looking for something to dive into when it’s still snowing, I’ll probably have forgotten the title of that book I wanted to read last November and will sit there with my remote desperately looking for something to watch that I haven’t already seen.

Enough already.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Too much of a good thing

More is not better; neither is less

I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with The Show Stopper, The Blockbuster Exhibition, The Grand Finale, Black Friday Sales, 4th Quarter Bonanzas, The Super Bowl, or The Blowout of Any Kind.  Call it what you will.

Why does every Broadway tune have to end with a Ta-Da Crescendo?  Without the quiet build, there is no crowning glory, no moment to celebrate.  It’s like a constant climax—unsustainable.   Why is everyone screaming in all caps?
Let’s take a look at Black Friday.  Originally, an insider term, Black Friday as everyone now seems to know, marked the day when most retailers’ sales began to turn a profit or that the company turned to profitability.  Very little was on sale, if anything.  The word sale was banned until after Christmas when Christmas items were discounted, then it ushered in the New Year with the Annual January White Sale.
As more and more retailers sought to increase short-term profits—when the expertise of merchants was traded in for the bean-counting skills of real estate magnates—merchandising as an art, customer cultivation as a duty, and customer service as a social courtesy were no longer priorities.  Sales took the front row while customer development—and loyalty—took a back seat.  Now we have a nation of consumers who look only for discounts.  We have reaped dollars while creating fickle “customers.”  What a huge price we have paid.
True, a few sales events shine through—the Nordstrom’s Twice Yearly Sale comes to mind.  But Nordstrom’s—like Nieman’s and Saks and Bloomies—has never really let its eyes stray far from the customer.  
Which brings us back to Black Friday.  We retailers continue pick at the shell of the golden goose.  Not only have we eaten away profits through unbridled sales; now we’re attacking the sales themselves.  Says Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, Black Friday is “certainly not dead, but it’s starting to spread out.” (See the New York Times article, "Early Push For Sales Undercuts Black Friday.").
The sales may be spreading to other vehicles, but the impact is getting lost.  It’s all sales all the time.  Are we attracting the customers we really want?  Or do we just want to have a higher ranking on the quarterly sales scoreboard?