BUEHLER SHEPHERDS 'BABE,' TALKING PLUSH PIG, SHOPPER CARD

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler Food Markets here went whole hog cross-promoting the movie "Babe" with a talking plush pig. The week of "Babe's" video release, customers holding the retailer's "Advantage" frequent shopper card could purchase the "Peeke Pig" plush toy for $4.99, while non-cardholders paid $6.99. At the same time a related children's cassette and coloring book package was offered at $1.99

WOOSTER, Ohio -- Buehler Food Markets here went whole hog cross-promoting the movie "Babe" with a talking plush pig. The week of "Babe's" video release, customers holding the retailer's "Advantage" frequent shopper card could purchase the "Peeke Pig" plush toy for $4.99, while non-cardholders paid $6.99. At the same time a related children's cassette and coloring book package was offered at $1.99 to cardholders, or $3.99 to others. The offer was made independently of any video purchase, although the video and plush toys were advertised and, in some stores, merchandised together. "Babe," a movie about a talking, sheep-herding pig, had a retail availability date of March 19 and a national advertised availability date of March 22. Buehler promoted it for $14.95, the minimum advertised price set by the studio, MCA/Universal Home Video, Universal City, Calif. Suggested retail price on the title is $22.98. Linking a video promotion to a frequent shopper card is a rare occurrence, said industry observers. The cross-promotion was apparently put together by the retailer and was not part of a national effort, they added. Nonfood executives at Buehler declined to comment on the promotion. The plush pig was the first item offered in a multiweek promotion involving the frequent shopper card and "Old MacDonald's Talking Farmyard Friends," a continuity program supplied by Metacom, Plymouth, Minn.

In subsequent weeks, the retailer planned to promote other plush "Farmyard Friends,"

including a cow, a kitten, a puppy, a rooster, a pony, a lamb and a duck, at $4.99 to cardholders. The program runs through the week of May 6. In one store in Medina, Ohio, Buehler had both the video and plush toys displayed prominently in an area between the live video department and the in-store entrance to a bank branch. The area was close to the main entrance. Besides two 48-piece shippers of "Babe," the store had similar-sized shippers of three other current titles, "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" and "The Baby-Sitters Club," which were released March 12, and "Pocahontas," which streeted Feb. 27. "Ace" and "Baby- Sitters" were priced at $14.95, while "Pocahontas" was selling at $16.95. "Babe" was playing on the video department monitors, although all 24 rental copies were out, reported store personnel. Demand for "Babe" as a rental title was exceptionally strong, they said. The same was true at a second Buehler store visited by SN in Medina. All rental copies were out and sell-through shippers seemed to be emptying more quickly than at the other Buehler store. This was noteworthy because the store was in an area with significant video sell-through competition, including Wal-Mart, Target, Blockbuster and a Super Kmart Center.

The second Buehler store was smaller, and the video and plush toy displays were separated. The plush toys were on two endcaps, one near the checkouts, the other on a nonfood aisle. The "Babe" shippers were in the video rental area, while "Ace" and "Baby-Sitter" shippers were outposted in other parts of the store.

Herd on The Street

Most chain retailers in Medina, Ohio, a small market outside Cleveland, were close on pricing for "Babe," the Oscar-nominated movie about a sheep-herding pig. The suggested retail price was $22.98.

Store Price

Wal-Mart

4141 Pearl Rd. $14.94

Buehler Food Markets

275 Forest Meadows Drive $14.95

Super Kmart Center

1105 N. Court St. $14.95

Target

1015 N. Court St. $14.95

Blockbuster

1205 N. Court St. $14.98

Discount Drug Mart

1673 Pearl Rd. $16.99