Blockbuster to hire, add promotions for holiday

By McClatchy Tribune Newspapers
Posted Nov. 2, 2010 at 1:18 p.m.

Don’t count Blockbuster out yet.

The Dallas-based movie and game rental chain is hiring about 4,000 seasonal employees to staff its stores nationwide this holiday season. That’s comparable to previous years when Blockbuster wasn’t reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

It’s also launching a private label line of merchandise for holiday shopping that includes flavored popcorn gift packages and chocolate-covered fortune cookies with famous lines from movies tucked inside, spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said.

The mix of gifts also includes a $149 Toshiba Blu-ray player that is Blockbuster On Demand-ready and comes with $15 coupons to spend on movies.

Last year, Blockbuster expected strong sales at its stores, but the business didn’t materialize.

In February, it reported a deeper-than-expected fourth-quarter loss of $435 million after its business deteriorated during Christmas 2009.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month in a pre-arranged deal with creditors. It plans to exit bankruptcy next year.

A reorganized Blockbuster won’t have the almost $1 billion in debt it couldn’t refinance.

While the complexities of a bankruptcy are being worked out in New York, the Dallas headquarters staff is responsible for giving stores the tools for a better holiday. Gift merchandise heading to stores includes Pillow Pets and Snuggies in fashion colors.

Craig Mabrey, Blockbuster’s director of recruiting, said the extra hiring is necessary because store traffic increases the week leading up to Thanksgiving and momentum continues through the week after New Year’s Day. Blockbuster employs 25,500 in the U.S.

As part of its reorganization, Blockbuster is expected to close more stores, but the company won’t confirm a number.

In recent weeks, some landlords have tried to recoup lost rent or improve their standing on other lease issues that have yet to come before the bankruptcy judge.

Blockbuster has closed more than 1,000 stores in the last year and renegotiated leases on about 700 more.

“We’re still evaluating all the markets and store leases. No number has been presented to the court yet,” Sullivan said.

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