Vinay (Vinny) Rajput doesn’t look like a man who is in the middle of a closing down sale. He is an irrepressible optimist who just loves being around people – and especially in Blockhouse Bay!
Even while he is selling off all the DVDs from his United Video franchise, he still has a steady stream of customers coming in to buy Lotto tickets and he is already planning his next business start-up in the store. In the interim he is also selling ducting to electrical contractors who are installing UFB fibre.
Vinny and his partners bought the United Video store in 2015. Then it was a thriving business averaging over 500 customers every week and even busier in school holidays. But the good times were short-lived, and within 18 months DVD rentals fell dramatically as digital content options grew stronger and more people signed up to services like Netflix and Lightbox. YouTube has also been changing viewing behaviour for years, and with 25+ TV channels free-to-air and TV on demand services, even SKY TV has been losing subscribers.
Recently the business has been averaging about a dozen customers each week and less than $100 in hireage. Reducing his floor space and selling the Lick Ice-cream business has not been enough take away the need to restructure, so it really is time for a change.
Vinny says "I feel really sad and the customers are sad - people used to come here with their parents and they have a lot of memories of this place."
Who knows if DVDs will make a come-back like vinyl records and film cameras? Certainly, there was a lot of nostalgia when the last Blockbuster Video store in the USA closed last year. The Blockhouse Bay store is one of less than 20 United Video stores left nationwide. Others are closing and the franchise is no longer operating in NZ, so the stores are just operating independently.
Liquidating his stock of 50,000 DVDs is helping Vinny to finance his next start up. He wants to stay in the shop and continue to serve the local community.
Vinny has had a long journey to get this far. His family migrated from India to Zimbabwe in 1997. A chemical engineer by trade, he worked in the family plastics business.
The move to NZ came in 2002 with Vinny, his wife Harsha and 14 month old son Hershal. They lived in New Lynn and Hershal attended Titirangi Kindy, Arahoe Primary and Blockhouse Bay Intermediate.
The family moved to the Bay so that Hershal could go to Lynfield College. It was then that Vinny brought into the video and Lick ice-cream businesses, while Harsha continued to work at Placemakers New Lynn. They love the area and the community, and still have friends from the kindy days.
You can’t help but think that the village is about to gain another vibrant business!