Webb Group, owner of video distributor ChoicesUK, has revealed plans to install 500 Rent It Here kiosks in UK convenience stores and other retail outlets by March 2011. New DVD titles will be available day and date with brick and mortar stores for £2.99 per night. Kiosks will also offer Blu-ray Disc (BD) rental, but the rental charge is not yet known. ChoicesUK was once the second largest video rental operator in the UK accounting for over 200 stores and 8.5 per cent of rental transactions in 2004. The company floated in 2001 but went into administration in 2007 due to economic problems; its wholesale, online and mail-order operations were subsequently acquired by the Webb Group while some of its stores were purchased by Blockbuster.
According to Screen Digest analysis, the UK rental market is not large enough to support low-cost DVD rental on the US kiosk model. But there are already ongoing trials of kiosks on the US model in the UK, albeit with higher rental charges. Unlike the US model however, ChoicesUK kiosks have a relatively small touch-screen consumer interface while the DVDs themselves are provided at retailer's point of sale, giving each kiosk a much smaller footprint which is arguably more suitable for the small stores that characterise the convenience market in the expensive UK retail sector.
According to ChoicesUK, each touch-screen machine costs 10-15 per cent less than the standard rental kiosks familiar to consumers in the US and southern Europe. Rent It Here machines are effectively a modern take on traditional in-store rental racking services - an area in which ChoicesUK remains a key player - and a similar system is already in use in Swedish supermarkets. Crucially, the company claims to have secured the support of studios - a fact which, combined with the rental pedigree of ChoicesUK, means this approach may offer an opportunity to fill a gap in the UK bricks-and-mortar rental market that has been in decline for years.
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