FREE VIDEO MAGAZINES PUT NEW TITLES IN FOCUS

Free video magazines that hype both new releases and catalog titles are helping to boost tape rentals and sales, while burnishing the image of the chains that disseminate them.It's hard to quantify the connection between the presence of these publications -- usually supplied by a video distributor and free to retailers through co-op dollars -- and increased volume. But to sum up the feeling of retailers,

Free video magazines that hype both new releases and catalog titles are helping to boost tape rentals and sales, while burnishing the image of the chains that disseminate them.

It's hard to quantify the connection between the presence of these publications -- usually supplied by a video distributor and free to retailers through co-op dollars -- and increased volume. But to sum up the feeling of retailers, it sure doesn't hurt.

"It's helpful to have the customer know about new releases, especially since they're the driving force behind rentals," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist at Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz. "We feel we can generate interest by the customer picking up a copy right on the counter, where a sign notes that it's free."

Glaseman places 250 to 500 copies of the monthly Video News in the chain's 32 stores that have video departments. The publication is supplied by video distributor ETD Entertainment Distributing, Houston. The size of the store determines the number of copies displayed, and they're generally gone by midmonth.

"We know customers look at them because they often want to rent something we don't carry, noting that 'it's in your magazine,' so we might add titles if we feel it's worthwhile," Glaseman noted. "Initially, we finesse such a request by saying the title isn't available in all stores."

Some chains augment video magazines with their own efforts. At NDC/Mega Marts, Oak Creek, Wis.-based wholesaler Roundy's, and a single-sheet front-and-back handout, Mega Video, which the chain puts together with the help of Roundy's ad department. "We've been handing out the larger publication since we began our video program eight years ago and have had Mega Video for the past year," said Bob Glisch, vice president of operations.

While Video Event contains an amalgam of movie descriptions, release dates and stories, Mega Video keeps things simple. The front page lists more than a dozen movies by title and release date, with a two- or three-sentence synopsis. On the reverse side is an ad for a movie and a coupon. A recent sheet offered one new release and one catalog title for $1.98. In addition, a box offered children a free rental upon presentation of report cards.

According to Glisch, Mega Marts initiated the second publication because it wanted a piece for promoting the department with a coupon, and designed it "for those who don't want to read everything but just want quick descriptions."

The publications are displayed next to each other, with the chain's sheet running 700 per store per month, well ahead of the 300 for the magazine.

The coupon in Mega Video varies. It can include a game special for kids, an adult promo or a sell-through, instead of a rental. "Redemptions are higher on combo offers." The coupons also push catalog titles to go beyond the predominant base of new movies. "The coupon has really helped build our catalog business. And in general," Glisch added, "it builds trial, which leads to regular customers. It builds loyalty by new and existing customers."

Another video-magazine enthusiast is Shirley Decker, video buyer at Goff Food Stores, Haslett, Mich. Goff's magazine, Entertainment Update, which comes courtesy of La Vergne, Tenn.-based distributor Ingram Entertainment, is a digest-sized 32-pager that categorizes movies as drama, comedy, family, sci-fi/horror and action, with new items showcased next to more mundane blurbs on catalog items. The magazine is devoid of lengthy features and is heavy on ads -- almost half of a recent issue's 32 pages were full-page or half-page ads.

The magazine's calendar has a 60-day window, covering the month of issue and the preceding month. "This is a great way to keep rentals alive," Decker said. Or in the words of Bill Bryant, Ingram's assistant vice president for major accounts and special markets, "it helps promote product and give additional legs to movies, particularly stuff that's been out for 30 to 60 days. It helps regain interest after the initial surge, new life beyond the first hype."

Decker noted that the distributor suggested that Goff take the magazine to supplement the chain's video posters and other in-store notification on what titles were coming or had just arrived. The magazine was put in stores three years ago, with Goff's name stamped on the back where a mailing label would go.

In addition to the magazine, Decker continues to be proactive in pumping videos. She types up information on new releases, dates and stars, takes it to Kinko's and gets posters blown up for the video aisle.

The magazine itself is kept at the service counter, and Decker said it's almost as much used by counter personnel as by customers.

Sandy French, video coordinator at Thrifty Food Stores, Burlington, Wash., has used a video magazine for 10 years. This fall, the chain changed distributors to Ingram, and now receives Entertainment Update.

"We hand them out to all new renters, and display them on two counters: one inside the department, the other facing outside the service desk," French said. "It gives people something to read while waiting on line at the service desk, so often gets them into the department for the first time."

Since Thrifty is the only area chain that takes reservations, the magazine helps, French said, because people can study it and note release dates -- the "What's Coming" section is particularly helpful in this regard, she noted. When new members are handed the magazine, they're told they can reserve and are also told about two-for-one and rent-10-get-one-free deals.

Randy Weddington, video specialist at Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., switched distributors this year. His previous distributor disseminated a TV Guide-sized magazine, but his new distributor, WaxWorks, puts out an 8 1/2-by-11 "slick publication" that Weddington calls more eye-catching.

"Any freebie generates goodwill," Weddington said. "Customers always look for the magazine each month, with stores getting 150 to 400 copies." In addition to the magazine, Weddington posts a "street calendar" in the video department with dates of releases. "That and the handout work well together," he said.

But he would like to see more promotional activity, asserting that one adult and one kids' contest in the magazine each month aren't enough. "Though we have our own promotions, more giveaways would be better. The more the merrier."

Despite retailer enthusiasm for video magazines, not all have hopped aboard the bandwagon. Marilyn Aldrich, video buyer at Des Moines, Iowa-based Dahl's Food Markets, has never used such a publication, opting instead to promote with in-store signs and store promotions. "We have a lot of Money Saver signs, and promote videos as part of our regular in-store fliers at the registers. Perhaps if a customer took a magazine home from a Dahl's, it would constitute advertising, subtle or otherwise, and Dahl's is known in the industry for doing no advertising."