This article is part of a Retail Dive project looking at Blockbuster’s path to extinction, and the lessons that remain relevant for retailers today.
Blockbuster’s rise and fall corresponded, almost, with the lifespan of an entire industry.
Video rental took off in the early 1980s, with mom and pops cobbling together an industry out of nothing. Not long after David Cook opened the first Blockbuster in 1985, investor Wayne Huizenga saw an opportunity in the stores and video rental generally. He saw a kind of McDonald’s in Blockbuster, something that could be scaled rapidly and converted into an American staple.
Many view the company’s final years as a cautionary tale. But people who were with the company from the beginning say the issues extended back much further than the rapid rise of Netflix in the mid-2000s.
Looking at a rough timeline of the company’s history, it becomes clear how early Blockbuster’s competitive and financial problems started.