Video rental business set to close all its locations

TUPELO – The owners of Southern Video are calling it quits after 25 years because “things change.” Randy Hitt and Donny Hamblin are liquidating the inventory at their three locations – City Avenue in Ripley, East Main in Tupelo and West Main in Tupelo. They cited the troubled economy, higher gasoline prices and the changing movie rental industry as reasons for the business’ demise. “As Randy says, we’re a casualty of economic downfall and things change,” Hamblin said. “The saddest part of this is I’ve got an employee who’s been with us for 20 years.” The business currently has 12 employees. Among the things changing is how people get their movies. “When we started this business,” Hitt said, “the only thing you could watch on TV was local channels.” Now, Hitt and Hamblin said, electronic movie delivery enables customers to buy movies through their cable or satellite service. They also mentioned popular business models such as Netflix and Redbox. Pirated movies also affected their business, they said, but not as much as the troubled economy. With the new options, the business partners don’t see much of a future for brick-and-mortar video rental stores. “We predict an end of that,” Hitt said. “There’s no way that Donny and I can see how they can survive … The end of an era. It is for us anyway.” Nationally, the video rental industry has been struggling. Movie Gallery, which owns Hollywood Video, recently filed for bankruptcy and closed several hundred stores. Blockbuster in May reported that quarterly earnings fell 39 percent. But Blockbuster is trying new things. It has a subscription service that aims to take on Netflix and this year it will roll out 3,000 DVD vending kiosks to fight back against Redbox. Additional alternatives to video rental stores are Internet sites, such has network-backed Hulu.com, which provide free legal movies. Liquidation ongoing Hitt and Hamblin said it’s been tough in the store, with some customers almost coming to tears when they found out the business was closing. Others have been snapping up videos at bargain prices. VHS tapes this week are $1.99 and DVDs are $7.99. The prices will drop each week until everything is gone. The co-owners expect to stay open until the end of July or mid-August. No matter the current circumstances, Hitt said they aren’t looking for a shoulder to cry on, saying it’s been a great 25 years and he’s thankful for all his customers. The two don’t have any immediate plans. Hitt said he wants to take a little hiatus and Hamblin said with a smile that he’s open to suggestions. Added Hamblin, “What’s that old saying – Better to have tried and failed than not tried at all. I’ve loved every minute of it except this minute.” Want to buy movies? Southern Video locations in Tupelo and Ripley are open: Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday 1 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal