“Highly Profitable” Bay Street Video Store in Toronto Thrives Despite Mainstream Consumer Shift: Interview

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As larger video retailer stores close, Bay Street Video is thriving and serves customers globally. 

Located at 1172 Bay Street in Toronto at the base of a 1980s luxury condominium tower, customers can walk into a time machine to rent or buy their favourite movie for the weekend. The location of the video store has been around for 40 years and changed ownership in 1993 to Bay Street Video. Now, the retailer is known to have the largest DVD collection in Toronto. 

“We are a very profitable store, we view ourselves as the little store that could,” says Dwayne Aylward, the Bay Street Video store manager. “In this city, you see these types of stores closing, and we are thriving. It really confuses people when they find out we exist.”  

Bay Street Video (Image: Shelby Hautala)

Bay Street Video has close to 40,000 titles, a number you can’t find anywhere else. 

Customers can find newer movies, or you can buy an 80s classic – there is something for everyone. Bay Street Video has the largest collection in Toronto, and even possibly Canada says Aylward. They offer thousands of titles in DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K UltraHD. 

Surviving in a dying industry 

Bay Street Video (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Video stores are becoming a dying industry and as streaming services are on the rise, Bay Street Video is having a harder time getting new releases on DVD. 

“The biggest challenge is a lot of newer movies these days are only available on streaming service,” says Aylward. “People are hearing about a movie, and we have to say that movie is only available on Apple or Netflix. The hope is a company will get the rights to the movie and put it out on DVD, but that is not always the case.” 

Bay Street Video tries to get everything they can on DVD, but as this is not always possible, they make it up with their huge collection. And their DVD collection has something streaming services do not: deleted movie scenes, extended movies, bonus materials, audio commentary, and all the classic movies. 

“I know people who just browse Netflix just to look for something to watch and not necessarily watch anything, just passing the time. It is easy and I get it. They have a lot of stuff on Netflix, but they don’t have the classics or the similar experience of browsing,” says Aylward. 

Bay Street Video (Image: Shelby Hautala)

Before streaming, people would be proud of their DVD collection or their books, but now everything seems to resort to online – taking away the experience of browsing in person and showing off their collection. 

“In the past you would go into your friend’s home, and they would have DVDs on the wall, their books, their movies, and it was a representation of who they are and what they like. It was cool. Now with everything on our phones and computers there is a lot less of that,” says Aylward. 

This experience is still possible at Bay Street Video as customers can buy and rent any movie they want, and if you can’t find it – they will order it for you.

Covid-19 challenges inspire new ideas

Bay Street Video (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

As Bay Street Video had to close their doors for a few weeks and limited customers to curb side pick up, they had to adapt quickly. 

“We had to reinvent ourselves and adapt to the situation and how can we continue to survive as a store even though people are not able to come in,” says Aylward. “The most appealing thing about the store is people love to come in, browse, and spend time discovering things, so if you are not giving them the ability to come and look around then it does kind of hurt the overall experience.”

Bay Street Video used its website along with leaning into social media to advertise what new releases they had. With curbside pickup and their new social media strategy, the retailer was successful and really helped customers continue their browsing experience. 

Covid-19 sparked an idea Aylward said they would have not considered before – shipping services. 

Bay Street Video (Image: Shelby Hautala)
Bay Street Video (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

“We have never done this before, but we were forced to because of the restrictions. And because we are a unique store, there are not many stores like this in the world. So, we started getting people placing in orders from all over, including Latvia,” says Aylward. “As far as we are concerned, we will adapt and change whenever necessary.” 

The shipping service has allowed the world to experience Bay Street Video and the 40,000 titles they offer. Next, Aylward said they are looking at expanding their online presence by a possible Shopify store where customers will have more of an online shopping experience. With this, customers globally can find and enjoy the movie they have been looking for. 

“A lot of times people come into the store and say they have been looking for a movie for 40 years and could not find it, and we say they should have started their search here, says Aylward. “If we don’t have it, we can find it for you as we like the challenge.”

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Article Author

Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala
Shelby Hautala, based in Toronto, is a new Journalist to Retail Insider. She has experience writing for local newspapers and also internationally for Helsinki Times while she lived in Finland. Shelby holds a Bachelor of Journalism Honours degree from the University of King’s College and a Social Work degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

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