RETAILERS WEIGH BENEFITS OF USDA

ORLANDO, Fla. -- While it stands to benefit supermarket video operations with networking opportunities, representation at the studios and other services, not that many are members of the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif.Many supermarket video executives will attend the annual VSDA convention, scheduled for Las Vegas July 9 to 12, and those who are not members would give it serious

ORLANDO, Fla. -- While it stands to benefit supermarket video operations with networking opportunities, representation at the studios and other services, not that many are members of the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif.

Many supermarket video executives will attend the annual VSDA convention, scheduled for Las Vegas July 9 to 12, and those who are not members would give it serious consideration, according to a discussion that took place during SN's fifth annual video roundtable. A full report on the roundtable, which is previewed here, will be published as a supplement to SN's July 7 issue.

"My main reason for being a member is the connections that you make and the opportunity to learn from other people," said Denise Darnell, video supervisor at Southeast Foods, Monroe, La. "I believe that the VSDA does some important things, especially with legislation, and I like to support that by being a member," she said.

Eight retailers participated in the roundtable:

Dennis Maxwell, director of video at Reasor's Foods, Tahlequah, Okla.

Tom Carton, president and chief executive officer of Buckeye Entertainment Corp., Dublin, Ohio. Buckeye is a Blockbuster franchisee that operates three leased-space Blockbuster departments in supermarkets of Big Bear Stores, Columbus, Ohio.

Darnell of Southeast Foods.

Sharon DeSordi, video buyer and merchandiser at Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J.

Matt Dillon, video director for Boogaart Retail division of Fleming Cos., Concordia, Kan.

Matthew Feinstein, vice president of Marbles Entertainment, Los Angeles. Marbles operates leased-space departments in 10 supermarkets of Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif., and 12 departments in supermarkets of Lucky Stores, San Leandro, Calif.

Bob Gettner, video buyer and coordinator at B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb.

Jamie Molitor, director of video operations for Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo.

One of the roundtable participants, Feinstein of Marbles, is very actively involved. He's the president of the VSDA's Southern California Chapter. "Today, we are learning from each other, but I do that every month with VSDA. It's very helpful," he said.

Here's a preview of how the discussion went at SN's video roundtable:

SN: How many of you are members of VSDA? If so, why, and what do you get out of it? If not, why not?

FEINSTEIN: Today, at this roundtable discussion, I've learned a lot, and as the Southern California Chapter president of VSDA, I am able to make these kinds of roundtables with different video retailers as often as I'd like. It's great to have these types of things every month or couple of months. Today, we are learning from each other, but I do that every month with VSDA. It's very helpful.

DARNELL: My main reason for being a member is the connections that you make and the opportunity to learn from other people. We are all basically in the same situation, maybe a little different in our types of customers and other specifics. I believe that the VSDA does some important things, especially with legislation, and I like to support that by being a member.

DILLON: We're not members. Probably the main reason is, we haven't been pushed to be members. We would probably join if we were, but it just really hasn't reached down to us.

CARTON: I am a member although not particularly active. Within the Blockbuster franchise community, you have almost a mini-VSDA to some extent. It is still, however, under the Blockbuster umbrella. The opportunity to expand our horizons and broaden our base of knowledge and experience with other retailers doing other things in other ways has been a real benefit.

GETTNER: We are not currently active members. I plan on looking into it a little bit harder. Right now Nebraska does not have a chapter, although Iowa does, and Iowa is trying to get Nebraska to start a chapter. In fact, I plan on attending an Iowa chapter meeting very soon to bring back some information for our company to show them why we need to be members. The way we are growing, I see that we need to be a part of the VSDA and take advantage of what it can do for us as supermarkets. So I see us becoming members soon.

MOLITOR: I'm not active in the VSDA at all. But I do see a need for networking and communicating with other retailers.

DESORDI: I'm not a member of the VSDA. This July will be my first trip to the show, not that I haven't made attempts to get there in past years, but schedules just didn't permit. Probably in the future, I will become a member. It's all been part of the educational process. Up until five or six years ago, the hierarchy at Grand Union didn't know who the VSDA was. We had tried to capture that information about the video industry through the Food Marketing Institute. Now we've recognized that it's a specialty business and we need to attend specialty shows.

MAXWELL: We are not a member of the VSDA. I feel a little bit like Matt [Dillon]. No one has really ever given us a reason to join. There has been no benefit for us. But we were aware that they helped police street dates, but then we saw that some of those who were nationally involved with the VSDA were the ones that were violating the street dates. So that did not give me an added incentive to get involved.

FEINSTEIN: Besides just dealing with the other retailers, you hear a lot about the studios and the distributors. For instance, we were talking about the confusion over the different cross-promotion rebates on sell-through titles. That's a problem that we supermarket video retailers have that other video retailers might not have. That's an issue that, if it could be brought up through the VSDA to the studios, it would be heard and something could possibly happen a lot quicker than if just one chain made a complaint.