Future of Retail (as seen in 1992)


In 1992, I was part of a team at Blockbuster Entertainment that imagined what the future of entertainment retail might look like.  We believed that consumers wanted "Songs" rather than albums, and that long before video on demand was a reality in 300 million homes, it would be practical in 4,000 retail stores.  We were naive enough to build the proof of concept. This was 9 years before iTunes was launched and the content owners weren’t ready to give up their inefficient distribution model. This is the promotional video we developed for the concept… at least I got to meet Dennis Miller.


  1. Ah, those were the days. I remember hearing about this. Very ambitious.

    While I was at Retail Planning Associates (RPA) we were developing something called Trellis–a similar concept, but without the content (!).

    Was Newleaf implemented/tested with real consumers? I’m curious to know how far it got.

    Thanks for sharing, btw.

  2. We got quite far actually. We built an extravagant demo center (to help persuade content owners and the media) that included high speed VHS Duplication, bleeding edge 4X CD-ROM burners, first generation digital color printers, and robotics to automate the fabrication and assembly of a complete piece of media with all its packaging. At the time we had research that indicated shoppers would still want the physical liner notes, etc… from a CD Jewel box. The demo center had motion sensors with theatrical lighting, the Dennis Miller video, etc… it was fun.

    We did a live trial of video games in Columbia, South Carolina. We partnered with Sega, and had 10 Blockbuster stores carry single blank videogame SKU (a re-writable EPROM chip). The store could burn any Sega title on the EPROM, and then re-write it for the next customer. So we had perfect inventory for all Sega platform titles. It was well received and solved a lot of problems for the stores. (Although I think Blockbuster still thinks I have some overdue games from the trial).

    Games were pretty rapidly evolving at that point, each new title required a bigger storage capacity EPROM than the last, etc… and of course the next gen consoles all went to optical media.

    They are fond memories, although it was too bad that content owners weren’t willing to provide their product the way their consumers wanted to use it.


  1. […] According to a former NewLeaf employee, “We constructed an extravagant demo middle…that included excessive velocity VHS duplication, bleeding edge 4X CD-Rom burners, first technology digital coloration printers, and robotics to automate the fabrication and meeting of an entire piece of media with all its packaging.” The standard album could possibly be burned within the matter of some minutes whereas the duplication time of films had been extra variable as a result of limitations of transferring to VHS tapes. The demo middle’s content material administration system was related by optic fiber phone traces tied again to a mainframe in an effort to maintain monitor of gross sales, and new releases could be downloaded from the same network connection. […]

Speak Your Mind