BABY'S FIRST VIDEOS

One of the hottest sub-segments of children's video is titles for infants and toddlers, notably those aimed at enhancing the development of babies.The market for these videos has increased 875% in the past four years, according to Dennis Fedoruk, president and chief executive officer, Brainy Baby, Alpharetta, Ga. Parents are buying these titles to help give their infants an early start in the educational

One of the hottest sub-segments of children's video is titles for infants and toddlers, notably those aimed at enhancing the development of babies.

The market for these videos has increased 875% in the past four years, according to Dennis Fedoruk, president and chief executive officer, Brainy Baby, Alpharetta, Ga. Parents are buying these titles to help give their infants an early start in the educational process, he said, citing the example of customers who say their 16-month-olds know the entire alphabet. "Parents want more and more of this product," and supermarkets "are the perfect place for this product to be," he said.

"If you are in the baby education business, there is just no end in sight," Fedoruk said, drawing the distinction between baby education and baby entertainment. "Entertainment can come and go, but we're into early learning and that has staying power."

"Parents across the country want to accelerate their children's education," said Dan Gurlitz, vice president, video, Koch Entertainment, Port Washington, N.Y. "Watching geometric shapes, listening to audio input, and seeing colors seems to accomplish that mission."

Brands like Baby Einstein are widely recognized. When they are linked to a cross-promotional partner, they sell well in supermarkets, said Scott Guthrie, vice president, sales and channel development, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif. "There are not a lot of returns. They are slam dunks when we are doing them. You don't need to have a lot of inventory either. These are really evergreen.

"Actually, it behaves more like general merchandise product than it does the rest of the video category. It actually fits into how they buy a little bit more aptly than some of our other products do," Guthrie said.

Another positive for supermarkets is that "you are seeing the price of these come way down as they try to get into the grocery business," said a nonfood executive with an east Texas retailer.

Educational videos have a good future, said Charles Yahn, vice president, merchandising, Associated Wholesalers Inc., York, Pa. "The hits will always be the hits, but the ones that sell regularly are those that delver a value to the customer in terms of education," he said.

Bill Sondheim, president, GoodTimes Entertainment, New York, drew a distinction between the infant and toddler/preschool segments. "The toddler business is preschool, and has room for tons and tons of brands and lots of diversity. The infant-oriented business only needs a handful of brands."

Low pricing on preschool product helps make these titles an impulse purchase in supermarkets, said Glenn Ross, president of the Family Home Entertainment division of Lions Gate Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif. "Parents see owning preschool properties as a great value because they know they are going to get hundreds of dollars worth of value out of a $10 purchase," he said.

HIT Entertainment, Allen, Texas, through its Barney and Wiggles properties, has a lot of experience targeting this segment. "Fifty-six percent of our kids actually come to the Barney franchise before age 1," said Debbie Ries, senior vice president, sales. Lately though, "it's becoming crowded in infant. There's a lot of players. It's the new hot button that everyone is looking at," she said.

"There's this huge, burgeoning market for toddlers. We want to get into it," said Ted Green, CEO, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Troy, Mich. "But because the market already exists, we want to get into it selectively when we have titles we know will do well at retail."

In the past, infant and toddler products have had a difficult time in supermarkets because of space restrictions and high price points, noted Leslie Baker, vice president, sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "But if priced at $9.99 or lower and placed on clip strips in the infant aisle of the store, those titles can sell through at retail."