Amoeba Hollywood (Music) Reopens at New Location After Year Hiatus

Amoeba Hollywood (aka Amoeba Music), one of the last big packaged-media retailers, has re-opened after a year hiatus in a new location in West Los Angeles. The location at 6200 Hollywood Blvd. is holding initial temporary hours everyday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (buy counter open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) with limited store capacity due to the pandemic. Face masks are mandatory.

Old Amoeba Music store

Opening day (April 1) events included a special design created by L.A. artist Ivan Minsloff. Customers get a limited-edition poster as a gift with purchase, with silkscreened T-shirts available for purchase in the store while supplies last.

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Opening day line to get into the new Amoeba store

With locations in Berkeley (site of original store in 1990), San Francisco (1997) and Hollywood (2001), Amoeba sells new and used selection of Vinyl LPs, CDs, DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies, posters, books and related memorabilia.

“We’re still carrying everything that we had carried before, so we’re more than just a record store, the music, and movies, the posters, T-shirts, games, toys, lunchboxes, you name it,” Amoeba Music co-owner Jim Henderson said in a media statement.

Netflix Generated $200 Million in 2020 DVD/Blu-ray Disc Rental Revenue

Yes, Netflix still rents DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies. The by-mail disc rental pioneer reported revenue of $200 million for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2020 — down about $100 million from the end of 2019.

Netflix doesn’t include packaged-media rental revenue in its financials, categorizing disc rental as separate revenue. The company reported $400 million in rental revenue in 2018 — underscoring the ongoing end of its legacy packaged-media business.

With Family Video calling it quits, Netflix and Redbox remain the only packaged-media rental services operating nationwide.

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NRF: More Than 150 Million Consumers Plan to Shop on ‘Super Saturday’ (Dec. 19) — With 27% Eyeing Packaged-Media Gifts

With less a week before Christmas, more than 150 million U.S. consumers plan to shop on Super Saturday (Dec. 19), up slightly from 147.8 million in 2019, according to new data from the National Retail Federation.

NRF’s survey of 8,092 adult consumers was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics Nov. 25 through Dec. 4. The trade group defines the holiday season from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. Over the 2020 holiday season, NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30%. In total consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.

“Throughout this year’s extraordinary circumstances, retailers have remained dedicated to protecting their customers, employees and the communities they serve regardless of how and when consumers choose to shop,”  Matthew Shay, CEO of NRF, said in a statement.

The number of anticipated shoppers on the last Saturday before Christmas includes both in-store and online and is the second-highest reported since NRF began tracking this figure in 2016. Of those planning to shop, 42% intend to do so solely online. Last year Super Saturday occurred just a few days before Christmas, while this year it falls nearly a week before the Christmas holiday, giving shoppers a few extra days to complete purchases.

As noted in NRF’s Thanksgiving survey, more than half (52%) of holiday shoppers took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions even before the Thanksgiving holiday. Last month 186.4 million Americans shopped between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. As of early December, 85% of holiday consumers had started shopping and they had completed 52% of their purchasing for the season.

For those with at least half of their shopping left to complete, 37% were still deciding what to buy, 26% were waiting for family and friends to tell them what they wanted, and 23% were holding off for the best deals. Similarly to last year, more than half (54%) of holiday shoppers plan to purchase their last gift during the week leading up to Christmas.

A majority (52%) of holiday shoppers plan to do the remainder of their shopping online. Other top destinations include department stores (30%), discount stores (20%), clothing and accessories stores (20%) and electronics stores (17%).

Top gift purchases so far included clothing and accessories (45%), toys (29%), gift cards (28%), books and other media (27%) and electronics (23%). Just 21% of holiday shoppers plan to give a “gift of experience” this year, down from 25% in 2019 and the lowest since NRF first asked the question in 2015.

“While traditionally a popular item, it’s clear that the pandemic has impacted ‘gifts of experience’ this year,” said Phil Rist, Prosper’s EVP of strategy. “With continued uncertainty around gatherings and out-of-home activities, we saw the biggest decline in plans to gift an experience among those ages 35 to 44, but the under-25 cohort also saw a significant dip.”

Still, shopping will continue into the new year. The survey found that two-thirds (66%) of holiday shoppers will likely shop in the week immediately following Christmas. The top reasons consumers plan to shop during the last week of December are to take advantage of post-holiday sales and promotions (45%) and use gift cards (27%). Whether it’s shopping post-holiday sales immediately after Dec. 25 or in the first few weeks of the new year, nearly half of shoppers plan to shop these deals online.

NRF: Movie DVDs Among Top-Selling Thanksgiving Weekend Sales Items; Shopping Traffic Down Slightly

An estimated 186.4 million consumers took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend price discounts and shopped in-store and online this year, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

After toys, books, music, movie DVDs, video games (29%), gift cards/certificates (29%) and electronics (27%) ranked among top-selling items, according to a survey of 6,615 adult consumers conducted Nov. 25-30 .

While the overall number of shoppers from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday dropped slightly from 189.6 million in an unusually robust 2019, this figure is still significantly higher than the 165.8 million shoppers in 2018.

“As expected, consumers have embraced an earlier start to the holiday shopping season, but many were also prepared to embrace a long-standing tradition of turning out online and in stores over Thanksgiving weekend to make gift purchases for family and friends,” NRF CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.

Black Friday and Saturday saw strong growth in online activity. For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers passed the 100 million mark, up 8% over last year. The number of online Saturday shoppers grew even more, up 17% compared with last year. Online-only shoppers increased by 44% for the entire weekend, for a total of 95.7 million.

With retailers enticing consumers with generous deals as early as October, more than half (52%) of holiday shoppers said they took advantage of early holiday sales and promotions this year. Of those, 38 percent said they checked off holiday purchases in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. More than half (53%) felt the promotions over the weekend were the same as they had been earlier in the season.

As expected, in-store shopping was down given both the state of the pandemic as well as the number of retailers who opted to close on Thanksgiving Day. With consumer traffic moving to online channels, the number of in-store shoppers on Thanksgiving Day dropped by 55% from last year and those on Black Friday dropped by 37%. An earlier NRF survey found that a large majority (70%) of holiday shoppers say they feel safe shopping in stores this holiday season given the precautions retailers have taken for COVID-19.

Over the five-day period, shoppers spent an average of $311.75 on holiday-related purchases such as gifts or decorations, down from last year’s total of $361.90 but comparable to 2018’s $313.29. Of that amount, nearly three-quarters ($224.48) was spent directly on gifts.

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Consumers have continued to stress the importance of holidays throughout this year. In fact, the majority of holiday shoppers (55%) said recent developments around COVID-19 cases had no impact on their holiday spending plans this year. Most (51%) also feel that given the pandemic, they are more interested in holiday decorations and seasonal items. They were also eager to support small businesses, as 77% indicated they were more interested in doing so this year.

“The growth in online activity this year was significant, particularly for Black Friday and Saturday shoppers,” said Phil Rist, EVP of strategy at Prosper Insights & Analytics. “With the start to the holiday shopping season continuing to move up even earlier, consumers will further utilize these channels.”

Shopping destinations included department stores (visited by 40% of those surveyed), grocery stores (39%), clothing stores (33%) and electronics stores (31%).

Although consumers have embraced the earlier start to the holiday shopping season, their lists are not quite complete. Holiday shoppers have about half of their shopping left to do and 91% expect they will continue to see great deals throughout the rest of the season.

NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and has forecast that sales will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019 to a total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion. Over the 2020 holiday season, NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30%. In total consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to NRF’s annual survey released in October.

Analyst: 10-Month Subscription Required to Offset Loss of One Video Game Disc Sale

The move toward free-to-pay (F2P) video games and subscription services will continue to negatively impact the revenue lost from packaged-media sales in the gaming industry, according to new data from Jupiter Research.

Jupiter found that the video game industry will exceed $200 billion in value in 2023, growing from an expected $155 billion in this year. Mobile and cloud gaming will lead this growth, as the market shifts further toward recurring revenue, and purchase revenue declines by 5% over that period.

The report found that despite the popularity of F2P games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty Mobile, with cloud gaming and other video game subscriptions growing at an average rate of 9% per year; and bringing in more than $8 billion in revenue in 2023 — the tally will not compensate for lost disc sales.

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“At current gaming subscription prices, it will take an average of 10 months of a subscription payment to cover the retail cost of a single AAA game,” analyst James Moar said in a statement. ‘The value of these platforms lies in keeping players within an ecosystem; ensuring that revenue across multiple games is captured by a single platform.”

Indeed, growing popularity of subscription services such as EA Access, Google Stadia and Xbox Gamepass, coupled with gamers buying fewer standalone games, only mobile games will see a net increase in games installs between 2020 and 2023. At the same time, 99% of mobile game downloads in the next three years will be F2P.

“We anticipate less than 50% of PC game installs over that period to be paid for, due to a combination of game giveaways and F2P business models,” Moar said.

PC games will be the most lucrative segment for in-game purchases; approaching $32 billion in 2023. While mobile games will have more purchases, higher value game expansion purchases will keep PC in-game revenue growth strong. Smartphone in-app revenue will grow at an average of 8% over the forecast period, as smartphone gaming in emerging markets grows.

Regardless, Marvel Entertainment this month launches Marvel’s Avengers, a single-player game designed to showcase one or more superhero’s unique abilities, while the “Avengers Initiative” missions can be played solo with a custom AI team, or with a group of up to four players as any hero in the player’s roster.

The title will be available on PlayStation5 and Xbox Series X when the consoles launch later this year. Players who own the current-gen version of the game will be able to upgrade to the next-gen version at no additional cost, regardless if players are moving from PS4 to PS5 or Xbox One to Xbox Series X.

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ Speeds to No.1 on U.K. Official Film Chart

Packaged media proved to be the perfect spark to push Paramount Home Entertainment’s Sonic the Hedgehog to the top of the U.K. Official Film Chart through June 17.

The video game adaptation entered the chart in April at No. 3 when it was released on digital download early due to the COVID-19 crisis. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Bloodshot returned to the chart in the fifth spot following its release on DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD.

Bloodshot, which stars Vin Diesel, was first released digitally in March, two weeks after its theatrical bow. Entertainment One’s Oscar-winning war drama 1917 jumped to No. 2, while the previous week’s No. 1, Dolittle (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) fell to No. 3, and Disney’s Onward dropped to No. 4.

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Sony Pictures’ Bad Boys For Life finished No. 6, while the studio’s Jumanji: The Next Level remained strong at No. 7. Sony Pictures’ Little Women came in at No. 8, while Disney’s Frozen II followed at No. 9, and Universal’s Cats fell four spots to No. 10.

Target Q1 E-Commerce Sales Up 141%, Profit Plummets

Big-box retailer and home entertainment distributor Target May 20 reported a 141% increase in e-commerce revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31), as consumers stocked up on lower-margin products online due to the coronavirus. As the same time, higher-margin apparel and merchandise sales declined, which contributed to a 0.9% increase in same-store sales.

CEO Brian Cornell said Target.com saw an increase of 5 million customers in the quarter, while more than 2 million used the drive-up service. The chain said more than 70 million people have downloaded the Target Circle app to access e-commerce.

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Overall retail sales increased 11.3% to more than $19.3 billion, from $17.4 billion during the previous-year period. Yet, net income plunged more than 64% to $284 million, from $795 million a year ago. The culprit: increased product, employee and shipping costs for online sales.

Target said cost-of-sales increased more than 18% to $14.5 billion, from $12.2 billion in the previous-year period. Administrative costs increased 10.9% to $4 billion, from $3.6 billion a year ago.

The decreases reflected actions taken by Target’s merchandising teams, including costs and inventory impairments related to the rapid slowdown in apparel & accessories sales, unfavorable category mix as consumers stocked up on lower-margin categories like essentials and food and beverage resulting in higher digital and supply chain costs, driven by unusually strong digital volume as well as investments in team member wages and benefits.

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Indeed, Target is paying store employees and extra $2 per hour through July 4.

“We’ll continue to be focused on [consumer/employee] safety, not just for the next few quarters, but for years and years to come,” Cornell said on the fiscal call. “We’ve been talking for years about being America’s easiest place to shop. We’re going to need to make sure we combine being an easy place to shop with America’s safest place to shop and make sure that that commitment to safety is ongoing.”

Jeff Bezos: ‘Hardest Time We’ve Ever Faced’

Not even Amazon is immune from the impact of the coronavirus.

Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos devoted much of the e-commerce behemoth’s first-quarter (ended March 31) press release to highlight efforts the company has taken on the warfront against COVID-19 — including safeguarding its warehouse employees, hiring 175,000 more of them, increasing hourly wages by $2, working on virus detection test production, deploying AWS to school districts for at-home learning, and reserving special shopping times for seniors at Whole Foods, among other initiatives.

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“The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” Bezos said in a statement.

Indeed, while net sales increased 26% to $75.5 billion in the quarter, from $59.7 billion in previous-year period, profit declined 31% to $2.5 billion, from $3.6 billion.

The culprit: a shutdown of all non-essential shipments, including many third-party sellers (more than 50% of Amazon sales), and increased delivery-related costs. In addition, there was a $387 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates, which impacted net sales by 1%.

Amazon said it spent $600 million on COVID-19-related costs, which is expected to increase to $4 billion in the current second quarter.

On the entertainment front, Prime Video launched Prime Video Cinema in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany — a premium VOD movie rental service that enabled members to stream in-theater movies at home, including titles such as Birds of Prey, Emma, The Invisible Man, Onward and Trolls World Tour.

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Prime Video premiered several new Amazon Original series, including the reality competition, “Making the Cut,” hosted and executive produced by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn; “The Forgotten Army” in India; “Love Island” in France; “Celebrity Hunted” in Italy; and the docuseries “The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team” in Australia.

As previously reported, Prime Video and the NFL announced a multiyear agreement to live-stream 11 Thursday Night Football games as well as one additional regular season game.

Online store sales increased 24% to $36.6 billion, from $29.4 billion a year ago. Store sales include packaged media such as DVD, Blu-ray Disc and music CDs. Subscription serviced revenue, which includes Prime memberships, audiobooks, transactional VOD, digital music, e-books and other non-AWS subscription services, increased 28% to $5.5 billion, from $4.3 billion a year ago.

Best Buy CFO: Coronavirus ‘Very Fluid Situation’ Impacting First Half-Year Results

Best Buy Feb. 27 said it expects interruptions from the global coronavirus outbreak to impact first half-year store results.

Like many retailers, Best Buy generates much of its product inventory from China, which, as the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus, has seen many manufacturing facilities shuttered over worker safety concerns.

“This is a very fluid situation, which makes it difficult to determine exact financial impacts from disruptions in supply chain,” CFO Matt Bilunas said in a statement.

The CFO said the retailer views the situation as a relatively short-term disruption that would not impact Best Buy’s long-term strategy and initiatives.

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“Our guidance ranges for both Q1 and the full-year 2021 [upwards of 2%] reflect our best estimates of the impacts at this time,” Bilunas said.

Separately, the nation’s largest CE retailer disclosed that fourth-quarter (ended Feb. 1) same-store entertainment sales in the United States fell nearly 22% to $1.1 billion compared to a 2.7% increase to $1.3 billion in the previous-year period.

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The entertainment segment includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies, video game hardware and software, books, music CDs and computer software.

The nation’s largest consumer electronics retailer said entertainment represented 8% of $13.8 billion domestic revenue, down from 10% of $13.5 billion in Q4 of 2019.

Internationally, same-store entertainment sales dropped nearly 17% to $94 million from a 2.7% drop to $117 million during the previous-year period. Entertainment represented 7% of international revenue compared to 9% in 2019.

Overall, domestic revenue increased 2.6% versus last year. The increase was driven by comparable sales growth of 3.4%, partially offset by the loss of revenue from store closures in the past year.

The largest comparable sales growth drivers were headphones, computing, appliances, mobile phones and tablets. These drivers were partially offset by declines in the gaming category.

Domestic online revenue of $3.52 billion increased 18.7% on a comparable basis due to higher average order values, increased traffic and higher conversion rates. As a percentage of total domestic revenue, online revenue increased to 25.4% versus 21.9% last year.

COVID-19: A Boon to Home Entertainment?

The sudden spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019), an incurable infectious disease that has killed more than 2,200 people, into Italy, Iran, Austria, Spain, Croatia and South Korea, has sent global markets on a downward spin.

The Dow Feb. 25 reported its worst two-day slide in history in part on the impact of the disease as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued a report saying it was “inevitable” the disease would infiltrate the United States.

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The news had one Wall Street analyst proclaim a potential upside for Roku, which pioneered the subscription streaming media market with Netflix, and now controls the streaming device market as well.

Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin, in a note, believes Roku could be a stock that benefits should COVID-19 expand into the United States.

Specifically, Martin contends that should the virus spread domestically, consumers would more likely opt to stay home to be entertained rather than going out to the movies, concerts and other public live-event venues.

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In other words, consumers would increasingly opt for home entertainment choices such as subscription VOD, ad-supported VOD, DVD/Blu-ray Disc rentals and/or purchases.

Indeed, Redbox affords users the ability to rent discs online for quick pick-up at the nearest kiosk. The vendor also enables consumers to rent/buy digital titles online.

Walmart-owned Vudu.com and Amazon Instant Movies do the same, while Movies Anywhere platform directs consumers interested in purchasing or renting titles from one of eight digital partners, including Vudu and Amazon.

Movies Anywhere is available free on Roku players and Roku branded televisions, with the digital hub eliminating the need to surf Roku channels and Apple products looking for new-release movies.

Roku-enabled streaming devices top the market, including Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV, with 25% of all connected televisions sold in the U.S. being a branded Roku TV.

“That would boost hours viewed and available ad units above projections,” Martin wrote, promoting investment in Roku as a defensive strategy. She lists Roku with a “Buy” rating and a $200-per-share price target, which is 71% above what the stock closed at on Feb. 25 — and up 3% from the previous day.