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New Release Delays and Shortages at Blockbuster

A new trend seems to be developing at Blockbuster. Around February, finding new releases at least some Blockbuster stores became extraordinarily difficult. We are not talking normal shortages here. This is a stunningly low supply.

Last year, a customer could walk into a Blockbuster on a Tuesday night and almost always find the DVDs that came out that day. They would be gone by Thursday night, but they were still there on Tuesday. (New releases generally become available for rental on each Tuesday.) Now, the new releases are gone by Tuesday afternoon. Even after a particular title has been out for a week or more, the title will be completely gone or in very low supply. The odd thing is that the Blockbuster store may try to cover up the low supply by putting out dozens of those placeholders that look like the DVD jewel case. This could give the illusion that the store owns many copies of a title, but all of the copies are checked out. Given the low quantities of new releases in stock, and the unremarkable flow of customers, one might wonder if Blockbuster is actually purchasing very limited numbers of each title while pretending to have normal quantities in stock.

Now that is just one suspicious thing going on in some stores. Something far more serious also seems to be beginning. Since March, some new releases are not available at Blockbuster stores or Blockbuster Online. When questioned about why the new releases are not in stock, Blockbuster employees are claiming the titles are being held up by the studios, but this is very unusual. New releases for major movies almost always come out on time. It makes no sense that the studios would suddenly be incapable of delivering DVDs on time.

What makes more sense is that 1) Blockbuster's suppliers are withholding shipments because Blockbuster is not paying them quickly enough, 2) the studios are taking advantage of Blockbuster's weakened state and deliberately delaying shipments in an attempt to motivate consumers to buy new releases rather than waiting to rent them, or 3) the studios are offering price incentives that encourage Blockbuster to delay purchases of new titles.

At this point, the cause is completely unknown to the public, but something suspicious is going on at Blockbuster. Regardless, Blockbuster needs to remedy this supply problem immediately. One of the few benefits that Blockbuster has to offer its customers is having new releases the day they come out. Netflix and Redbox have already conspired with the studios to impose artificial release delays. If Blockbuster cannot have the movies before the competitors, there is no way Blockbuster can even think about being competitive.

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