The dominant rise of services like Redbox, Netflix and other entertainment providers have taken out yet another neighborhood rental store.
Movie Scene’s Milford location will be closing at the end of the year, making it the eighth store and almost last store to go under. The remaining store in this New Hampshire chain currently sits on Nashua Road in Londonderry.
Owner Lee Gentile and her husband made the decision to close last week after looking at the piling costs and decreasing business in the brick and mortar rental industry. Weekend business has been good and there are still plenty of customers, but the costs are too high and weekday business is poor.
“We have been hanging in there as long as we can,” said Gentile. “We can only cut down on labor so much, and need people here. We have taxes to pay, overhead, heat, A/C. We fall behind and can’t catch up.”
Much of the blame can be places on rental machines like Redbox that offer rentals faster, and at a lower cost. They have been scattered all over and, along with popular services like Hulu and Netflix, have been taking out rental stores left and right.
“It is hard to battle a vending machine that has no overhead, doesn’t employ anyone, doesn't pay taxes or have a soul.”
The Milford store currently has six employees, which is about half of their staff from the days before instant and streaming programming. Zach Calo, 23 is a business manager at Movie Scene and has been working there the past five years. He said that he knew in the back of his mind that the store might close in the wake of new entertainment technology and services.
“We just cannot match up to Redbox and Netflix,” he said. “They are turning us into a dying industry.”
The owners have been trying to cut costs and downsize their business, but this has proven as difficult as it is costly. Their overhead, labor costs and debts cannot be maintained against the big companies looking to take their business.
One lesser-known killer of video rental stores is the infestation of reality television programs that have been sucking in audiences during the weeknights, and taking away valuable business in the process. Gentile said she “goes into agony” whenever she sees shows like American Idol come back on.
Gentile and her husband originally planned to open a sports bar in Derry, but decided to hop onto the thriving VHS rental business instead. They opened their first location in Derry twenty years ago and expanded to a total of nine locations, including Milford in 1997. The store began its life as a Video Update franchise before rebranding itself as a new store.
The owners will continue to run the Londonderry location, as well as the two Ben and Jerry’s they own on Elm Street in Manchester and in Maine. They will be looking to clear out their Milford inventory before the store closes in the next few months.
Bargains on movies and video games are in abundance as the owners look to unload their enormous stock. Rental services will still be offered for customers in the meantime.
The decision hasn’t been easy on this business owner, who would love nothing more than to see this store remain open. Gentile’s heart is still set in the idea of true family businesses that a meaningful fixture in the surrounding community.
“I have been working open to close every single day and seeing our wonderful fabulous customers,” Gentile said as she tried to fight back tears. “I thank them for all of their business. It was a good run.”