Store Review

Black Star was launched in February 1998 as an online video store, boasting a catalogue of over 60,000 titles – otherwise known as every video and DVD currently on release in the UK. The store is based in Northern Ireland, and their 20 staff sell to customers in over 60 countries.

The purpose of this shopping trip was to buy a copy of Titanic, which was on offer for £9.99 including postage & packing (most high street stores sell this for between £14 and £16). Black Star were taking pre-orders at the time of our purchase, in advance of Titanic’s release date of 19 October.

This is without doubt one of the friendliest stores you’ll find. The staff are all pictured and profiled, along with lists of their top 10 films. A ‘Customer of the Week’ is featured on the site, also with a list of his or her favourite titles. You get the impression that if you turned up on their doorstep in Belfast, the Black Star team would take you straight down to the pub for a drink.

Black Star are keen to boast about their attitude to customer service. One example they quote is about a chap from America who couldn’t find a copy of Tonic for the Troops by the Boomtown Rats. He contacted Black Star for help, but as the CD was no longer available a member of staff was despatched to the local market to find a copy on vinyl. They did, and it was despatched to the American customer without charge.

So what about the store itself? Well, the site’s layout and organisation is good, with several different ways to track down the title you’re after. There is a search form on each page, along with links to the the different product categories if you prefer to use one of the many browsing options. Each product listing lets you link to related items – for example, a film listing will include details of the stars and director. You can click on any name to see a list of available titles featuring the same person.

The first time you order from Black Star, you are required to register your details, including credit card number. Black Star reckon that your card details are held on their web server for less than a minute before being transferred to a stand-alone machine. This means that on future visits you will only need your Email address and password, thereby removing the need for your card details to be sent electronically again. And for those that still doubt the safety of this type of commerce, Black Star offer a Secure Shopping Guarantee to every customer, meaning that if your card details are stolen and used fraudulently as a result of sending them across the Internet to Black Star, they will refund any costs not covered by your card company.

By the time we had completed the ordering process and downloaded our mail, a message was waiting from Black Star confirming the details of our order. We were delighted when the film dropped through our letterbox on the day Titanic was on public release, complete with a hand-written compliments slip. This personalised service has just been extended with the introduction of a gift-wrapping and hand-written gift card option.


Having made a purchase from Black Star, it is obvious why they achieve a high repeat purchase rate. Unlike some stores, they clearly realise that selling over the Internet requires a different attitude to traditional mail order business. This approach, combined with a strong product range and regular improvements to their store, should mean that Black Star soon becomes a household name amongst web shoppers.

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