Originally created 01/05/02

DVD winning slugfest with VHS



For the first time, DVD players and videodiscs are outselling their older and increasingly outdated counterparts, VCRs and VHS tapes.

The Consumer Electronics Association has reported that sales of DVD players outpaced VCRs in both September and October. In October, the association reported retailers sold more than 1.5 million DVD players, compared to 1.1 million VCRs.

For Best Buy, that number is even more exaggerated, said Knoxville, Tenn. store manager James Slough.

"It pretty much equates down five (DVD players) to one (VCR)," he said.

"It's a trend that has gained momentum since Christmas last year, "mainly because they came down in price so much," he said.

Best Buy sales representative Joe Keith agreed.

"I think everybody was sketchy about it at first, didn't think it was going to last," he said. "This year, basically it's skyrocketed."

Target electronics manager Adrian Wells said his store in Knoxville, sells DVD players "two to one" over VCRs, a number echoed at a local Radio Shack, according to manager Eddie Wiggins.

Wiggins attributes the increase to a decrease in the cost of big-screen televisions and consumers' subsequent interest in setting up home theaters.

"When they come in, they're wanting a better picture, better sound quality," he said.

Jamie Osborn, manager of Borders Books and Music, said the ratio of customers buying DVD format versus VHS has "flip-flopped" in the past year.

"We've expanded (our DVD section) dramatically and then reduced the stock on video," she said. This year, the store has doubled its DVD sales, which now comprise 80 percent of its total video revenues, while VHS sales have dropped in half.

A drop in the price of both DVDs and DVD players has helped customers go the digital route, say store managers. A year or two ago, DVD players sold for about $350 and up. Today, you can find a decent player for about $150.

And DVDs, which first debuted at about $30, can now be found for $20 and lower.

Now DVDs and VHS are "very comparable" in price, said Osborn. And she sees people now replacing their VHS libraries with DVDs.

People also seem to be investing more heavily in DVD technology than its VHS predecessor, said Osborn and Slough, possibly because they see the technology as more permanent, they said.

All this translates into a greater DVD presence at video rental stores.

At Blockbuster Video in Knoxville, store manager Steven Wyndham gets as many DVDs of newly released movies as VHS versions. And, with new digital versions of older movies released every day, altogether he receives more DVDs than tapes.

DVD rentals cost more, about 20 cents to 30 cents per unit, he said, but renters also get more for their money because the DVD usually contains outtakes, music, extra scenes and, in the case of "Pearl Harbor," even a National Geographic documentary to go with the movie.

DVD recorders are still cost-prohibitive. With Best Buy's version costing about $1,000, many people keep their old VCRs to tape shows and to view videos of family and friends.

In fact, said Best Buy's Slough, many customers who buy VCRs already have DVD players, but they still need a way to watch what is increasingly seen as yesterday's technology.