Best Practices to Encourage Improved Street Date Merchandising of Video Games at Retail

Adherence by all retailers of video games to street date policies encourages and increases competition, establishes a level playing field, provides opportunities for enhanced merchandising, and improves distribution efficiencies and therefore increases net profits.  The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) encourages the adoption of certain best practices by video game publishers in order to encourage improved street date merchandising and retail compliance with street dating as designed by publishers.

1.    Have a formal written policy specific to your company – Each publisher should have a written policy that applies to all its applicable titles.  This written policy should be communicated to, and signed by, your distribution and retail partners, and include specific sanctions against retail/distribution companies that violate this policy.   Retailers and distributors do not seek common policies or sanctions among publishing companies, nor any coordinated enforcement, but rather seek clearly defined policies and sanctions that can be understood throughout the supply chain and within retail.  Require retailers and distribution partners to acknowledge this policy in writing.  The policy may require that retail and distributor partners have written policies regarding street date adherence included in their employee training material.  Although publishers may act on any reported violation in accordance with that publisher’s policy, and may encourage the reporting of violations, under no circumstances should the publisher’s response to a street date violation be discussed with the reporting retailer or with other publishers whose products were also sold early.

2.    Shipping Schedule – Ideally, product should ship to arrive at distributors and retail distribution centers no more than five business days before street date unless shelf-ready processing/handling requires a longer lead time.  Product should be permitted to ship to arrive on the day before street date at sub-distributors and those indirect retailers that have been approved for early shipments.  Direct retail arrival should be determined on an individual basis by each publisher. The goal is that no retailer be disadvantaged by receiving shipments too late to merchandize efficiently by the street date (or, in the case of online merchants, to ship for customer receipt on but not before street date).

3.    Watermarking - Product should be watermarked so that violations, when they occur, can be traced back to the source of distribution.  Watermarking can be fractional (a given percentage of all pieces of each title), and can also support piracy investigations.

4.     Audits - Obtain rights to access and audit your customers’ shipping records related to alleged violations when they occur.

5.     Standardize the Street “Day” - Standardize the day-of-week that all video games street. Such standardization reduces errors, and allows retailers to staff more efficiently.  Currently, Tuesday is the most common street date.  Of the titles street dated over the past year, 320 out of 339 (94.4%) were street-dated on Tuesday.  Twelve were street dated on Sunday, five on Thursday, one on Saturday and one on Wednesday.

6.    Use Street Date Only as Earliest Sale Date – The pro-competitive benefits of street dates are based on providing all retailers the same “starting point” for retail competition without unfair advantages based on the fortuity of a retailers’ place on the delivery route. But the street date should always be used as an earliest sale date, and never as an obligation. Retailers should remain free to exercise their own competitive judgment concerning whether to delay selling until later time of the individual retailer’s choosing.

 

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