Overview of Choices Uk's DVD Rental Operations


Mission Statement
“The overriding objective of ChoicesUK plc is to deliver the best quality, service and range of pre-recorded home entertainment in whatever way suits our customers best.”

As our chosen physical company, ChoicesUK provides a DVD rental service through its physical UK stores and its supply of white-label DVDs to third party outlets. The organisation does have an online store, however this only facilitates the purchase of DVDs and does not allow DVD rental.

ChoicesUK, formerly Home Entertainment Corporation (HEC), was established in 1985. In this pre-internet period, the company’s main strategy was to exploit the UK video market.
Initially, the business was centred on video rental through its “Video Box Office” stores (now ChoicesUK Local) which supplied white-label goods to third party convenience stores. The company’s first B2C store opened in 1986, under the name of “Choices Video”, offering a selection of videos for rental and various confectionary products. In 1991, the company added a mail-order service for the sale (not rental) of videos and later DVDs.

ChoicesUK’s pre-internet strategy focused upon 3 areas:
- Video and DVD rental through “Choices Video” Stores
- Supplying third-party outlets with white-label videos and DVDs
- Catalogue based mail order service for videos and DVDs

These three areas, saturated the pre-internet marketplace, making ChoicesUK a highly competitive organisation to challenge the market leader Blockbuster Ltd

From 1991 to 2003 ChoicesUK experienced a period of relative continuity, where the established strategy remained largely unchanged, with the exception of minor incremental changes. This was followed by a period of industry flux, in response to the quick emergence of virtual rental companies and Video On Demand (VOD) services such as Sky Box Office.

The impact of the Internet on ChoicesUK’s strategy:

ChoicesUK is currently undertaking a defensive strategy to create a more competitive organisational structure to combat the increasing online threat.

One of the innate problems with the overall structure of physical store rental services, is the greater effort required by the company to facilitate the rental process. In comparison to the consumer-led virtual organisations, which encourage consumers to review films and recommend to their peers, in effect doing a lot of the virtual organisations day-to-day marketing and healthy cookbooks

In response to the threat from the Internet, ChoicesUK decided to re-brand its divisions and focus upon a single brand strategy to encompass all company activities. This improves brand awareness and increases the overall industry presence in the UK’s home entertainment retail and distribution market.
After this rebranding strategy, ChoicesUK has 3 divisions:
- ChoicesUK stores has 180 outlets located throughout the UK, cater for impulse rentals of DVDs, games and music.
- ChoicesUK Local still supplies third-party outlets with white-label DVDs.
- ChoicesUK Direct has incorporated the catalogue mail-order service, and transferred this service to an online mail order service, through the ChoicesUK website.

ChoicesUK has clearly chosen to circumvent the online DVD rental market, and instead chosen to focus upon its physical base of stores and supplying the convenience store sector with new white-label goods.
However, the success of the Internet rental process has made ChoicesUK recognise the strategic significance of modern data management systems. This has led to various collaborations and partnerships with e-commerce specialists such as QAS plc significantly improving the data management systems of ChoicesUK. In addition, further collaborations with Snow Valley Ltd and Charteris plc have created a single product file for ChoicesUK that can be sold across multiple channels.  On top of this there is now only one service policy for the organisation so that returns can be managed more efficiently. This significant restructuring of its IT systems and infrastructure is summarised below:

Strategic Infrastructural change:
- The consolidation of group resources such as Purchasing and Marketing, adding to the existing group functions of Information Services, Human Resources and Finance.
- The disposal of non-trading and unprofitable retail sites, reducing its store base by 12.
- Substantial re-configuration of the stores has been undertaken to increase the space given to Electronic Games and Trade-in, reflecting the shift in entertainment markets in preparation for the release of next-generation consoles.
- Overall company wide cost reductions of over £3m to date, creating a more competitive cost-base.


Sales Consultancy – Why Sales is the New Consultancy Discipline

Rapid change in selling (and buying) processes is impacting sales in unprecedented ways, providing a driver for companies to engage a sales consultancy to re-shape their sales operations.

Sales consultancy is now a growth disciple within the management consultancy sector.

If you browsed any bookstore just a few years ago for a consultancy based approach to sales you wouldn’t find many examples. Until recently, sales books were the reserve of testosterone-fuelled motivational speakers and guides offering “101 closes”.

If you looked today, you will find a new breed of author, usually from a specialist sales consultancy, applying research and rigor to the sales process.

In the US, over 30 business schools now have a sales centre. Within the management consultancy sector, the number of boutique sales consultancies are growing and what was once considered a “black art” is now recognised as a key strategic discipline for any company.

What’s driving this change?

The internet, global resourcing and instant communication is changing the selling process in both retail and business-to-business sectors. New sales channels, new technology, new selling skills and new sales processes are needed to retain the competitive edge; this is the focus of today’s sales consultancy.

As markets become more competitive, products and services mature, and customer buying processes change, companies can easily become misaligned with their core market. Revenues could be declining, close ratios slipping, order values dropping, etc.

Often, companies react by changing their product mix, targeting new markets or creating more complex product and service bundles. All these changes will have a dramatic effect on the company in terms of its go-to-market strategy, its existing sales channels and internal capabilities; these are all areas that a sales consultancy can add value.

A sales consultancy will work with the client to map their current sales process and consider whether they are fit for the current market.

Tools which a sales consultancy will use include win-loss analysis, voice-of-the-customer, and sales operational audits, which are excellent ways for a sales consultancy to measure what’s happening and bring a fresh perspective to a client.

In fact, one the reasons why companies hire an external sales consultancy is precisely because they have a fresh perspective.

They can speak directly with customers about why they are defecting and get an unbiased viewpoint. They can objectively analyse sales team and channel structure and performance unencumbered by internal politics.

A sales consultancy will also bring additional capabilities to the existing management team and transfer tools and processes, enabling the client to embed change within its organisation.

Rather than the traditional reaction to poor sales performance, which is usually to buy in some sales training or fire some of the team, a sales consultancy will take a holistic approach, considering external and internal factors affecting the sales team.

Where appropriate, a sales consultancy will provide training and coaching, for both sales management and the sales force, but this is to ensure lasting change rather than a quick fix.

The typical Sales Consultancy firm is run by senior ex-Sales Managers, Directors and VP’s with both operational experience and sales consultancy backgrounds. Compared with the typical view of management consultants as fresh MBA’s, people within a sales consultancy have worked in the trenches.

Whilst the largest global sales consultancies focus on sectors with huge sales operations, such as pharmaceuticals and high-tech, a smaller, niche sales consultancy will provide services aimed at small and medium sized businesses.

In fact, some of the more entrepreneurial firms work with start-ups and provide sales consultancy services on results based fee models.

Fortunately, unlike other management consultancy “fads”, the case for employing a sales consultancy is easy to understand. After all, sales is inherently measurable and directly impacts a company’s top-line.

David Regler

5 Steps To Success In The Private Labeled Bottled Water Business

The private label bottled drinking water is a growth industry with double digit growth and profit opportunities for the entrepreneur. But like most opportunities care must be taken to seek out and exploit the most profitable niche in the market.

A recent market study examined the growth and potential of the market for bottled water and concluded:

“The bottled water industry grew about 10% in 2005, while carbonated soft drinks revenue is essentially flat,” says Gary Hemphill, marketing director of BMC. “There are a couple of things driving the market-sure, people like to have a tap water substitution, but it’s really driven by people’s demands for a healthier alternative to the wide array of beverages on the market.”

Private label water is the fastest growing segment of the overall bottled water market and its future growth is considered by many to be “explosive”.

Private label water combines the purity of refreshing drinking water with consumable advertising that is designed to an individual customer’s specification. The water is popular and the branding message, if designed properly, serves to promote business.

Almost every company in the United States can benefit from private label water with a custom branding message. The opportunities are huge, the market is largely untapped and the private label product is viewed by customers as a cost effective, power way to promote a brand message.

The bottled water industry consists of a number of interrelated parts including research and development, manufacturing, marketing and sales. Much of the business model however, requires significant amounts of capital and has high barriers to entry for most entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, with the advent of the internet and e-commerce, an aggressive sales focused entrepreneur can develop a substantial profitable private label business through affiliate programs .

What Are Affiliate Programs?

Affiliate programs are revenue sharing programs between an entrepreneur and a company that manufactures and sells a product or service. Affiliates are rewarded with referral payments for sending customers to the manufacturer’s Web site. The process works as follows:

? The affiliate place links on its site to a particular manufacturer’s Web site.

? When a visitor clicks on the link and makes a purchase the affiliate earns a referral fee that is a percentage of the total sale.

? The best manufacturer sites have automatic payment mechanisms and real time accounting.

But an efficient affiliate site requires planning and work. Many affiliates believe they will be able to just put up a Web site, establish some affiliate links and sit back and wait for streams of cash to start coming in. Care must be taken however to be truly successful. Consider the following:

? What type of Web site should you have to make money through affiliate programs?

? What are the best programs for your site?

? How will you effectively market your site and the underlying product?

? How can you find niche markets?

Similar to other facets of developing a home business, careful planning is needed to map out a profitable strategy for building a home based business using affiliate programs – a strategy that will allow you to build income through content in a sustainable, month after month way.

The issue is – what are the steps required to develop an income producing web site using affiliate programs that generate consistent, substantial revenue?

Tip Number 1: Align With a Manufacturer That Produces A Quality Product With Unique Features and Manages a Robust Affiliate Program.

As any good sales person will tell you, a high quality product is mandatory for sales success. Look for a company that manufactures (resellers add little value) a quality product that is recognized as different in the marketplace. There are many types of water in the market but purified water is clearly recognized as the highest quality.

After identifying a manufacturer with a quality product offering, chose one with a robust, profitable affiliate program. This should include at a minimum:

? commitment to affiliate success.

? commission plans that are substantial.

? a website that allows for easy ordering and accrual and payment of commissions.

? support for marketing, selling and booking of orders.

Tip Number 2: Identify a Niche Market and Create a Plan to Penetrate That Niche Deeply

Avoid the tendency to mass market and “shoot at the flock”. Mass marketing is beyod the scope of most companies and entrepreneurs. There are many profitable niche markets that have significant growth potential. Identify a niche market, understand the buying patterns of that niche and penetrate the market. It takes time and work but done right this effort is very profitable.

Some examples of niche markets: hotels (small and large), health spas, golf courses, gyms, car dealerships, organizations and health clubs to name a few. Almost any organization is interested in promoting their brand and brand message in a cost effective way.

Tip Number 3: Create an Eye Catching Website With a link to The Manufacturer

One of the advantages of an affiliate program is that profitable business can be developed with only a nominal investment. Given today’s technical level of internet development expertise, creation of an attractive web site is easy and cost effective. The critical part of the website however is the creation of a focused message presented in an attractive manner.

Following the creation of the site, establish a banner link with the chosen manufacturing partner that will direct affiliate inquires to the site for order creation and booking of the affiliate commission.

The manufacturer’s site must be able to design and produce labels, provide powerful e-commerce facilities for order booking and shipment and include a facility for the booking and payment of commissions to the affiliate.

Tip Number 4: Create and Implement a Sales Strategy

A clear sales strategy is the most effective path to success and profits in the private label business. Identify in writing the target niche, strategy to penetrate that niche, buying patterns, target prospects and communication material (sales collateral) and tactics to sell targeted prospects. Then implement the strategy in an organized manner and make adjustments to the strategy as conditions change. Remember the old sales adage “Always Be Closing”.

Tip Number 5: Follow Up on All Orders and Provide Feedback to Customers

As part of any effective sales effort, follow up and feedback with and to customers is critical to maintaining good customer service and obtaining repeat orders. One of the most powerful aspects of private label water sales is that happy customers tend to be repeat customers. Creation of a long customer list with satisfied customers will generate a steady stream of repeat orders and significant cash flow.

Marcus Stout

Technological Advances and Environmental Benefits of Plastic Cards

It is hard to imagine how modern society would cope without using plastic cards in everyday life. Most adults these days use a plastic card at least once a day, whether it is a membership card for the gym, payment with a credit card, a loyalty card in retails shops – the list goes on. Technological advances in plastic cards have not only meant that the uses of them have become broader, but have also brought environmental benefits as customers can now re-use their plastic cards instead of throwing them away.

O2 is a leading provider of mobile services and have taken advantage of the benefits of using plastic cards with their customers. O2 offer communications solutions to customers and corporates in the UK and Ireland. They also have integrated fixed / mobile businesses in Germany, the Czech Republic (Telefónica O2 Czech Republic) and the Isle of Man (Manx Telecom). In addition, O2 has established the Tesco Mobile and Tchibo Mobilfunk joint venture businesses in the UK and Germany respectively. O2 also owns Airwave O2, which supplies secure digital communications to the emergency services and other public safety organisations.

PCC has been a supplier of top-up cards to O2 for many years. John Ashcroft, PCC’s strategic client director, explains “The pre-paid client base has been an important part of O2’s growth in the UK mobile market. The top-up card has been a key media driving the pre-paid revenues for O2″.

Initially, board based scratch-cards were used as the key media to top-up mobile phones. The cards were individually printed with a code, which was then covered by a scratch panel. Each card was then individually wrapped, with cards either flow-wrapped in links, or wrapped in collated packs. PCC produced many millions of these cards for O2 during this period, and continue to do so for other mobile operators around the world.

As the British mobile market evolved, the use of scratch cards reached an all-time high. It was then that O2 took the decision to start using reusable plastic cards, in an effort to reduce costs and benefit the environment.

Michael Williamson of O2 explains “The board scratch cards were thrown away after each use. The evolution of technology allowed O2 to introduce plastic e top-up cards, which are kept by the customer and reused each time a phone top-up is initiated. As well as facilitating cost reduction for the business, the plastic card means that O2 has a constant brand presence in the customer’s wallet”.

Each plastic top-up card is personalised with a unique number, which in turn is linked to a mobile phone when used for the first time. Variants of the cards have been distributed with new mobile phones, through retail outlets and post offices and individually to clients throughout the UK. PCC has produced over 100 million of these cards, which have been a huge success for O2.

“The card has become a vital part of the top-up process, providing the direct link between the customer and the network” said John Ashcroft. “Product quality is key – each card directly represents O2 in the eyes of their customers. There is no compromise where quality and accuracy is concerned”.

PCC continues to be a key card partner for O2. Michael Williamson continues “PCC continues to offers the product and service levels that a household name like O2 requires. “


Thea Monk