GERLAND'S OPENS NEW CHAPTER IN BOOKS: REVISED SECTION HIKES MAGAZINE VOLUME

HOUSTON -- Fourth-quarter periodicals sales increased 75% at a Gerland's Food Fair unit here due to an expanded and relocated book department.The section, moved to a front alcove, runs 60 feet, up from 24 feet. Formerly positioned in a lobby area near grocery carts, it features 372 magazines, up from 312, and 250 book pockets, up from 90. "In the smaller section, titles were too crowded. There wasn't

HOUSTON -- Fourth-quarter periodicals sales increased 75% at a Gerland's Food Fair unit here due to an expanded and relocated book department.

The section, moved to a front alcove, runs 60 feet, up from 24 feet. Formerly positioned in a lobby area near grocery carts, it features 372 magazines, up from 312, and 250 book pockets, up from 90. "In the smaller section, titles were too crowded. There wasn't enough space to fan them out. Now, there's space for everything without much overlapping," said Kim Botkin, director of nonfood. The alcove used for the section, which was enlarged last fall, came from space formerly used for video rentals. Gerland's over the past few years has phased out video rentals in all but two stores due to insufficient space, Botkin said.

The new department features pockets on the mainline fixture that are divided equally between books and magazines. It is arranged in a series of island displays.

The section also offers an enhanced children's book display merchandised on a double-sided, 8-foot rack shaped like a train. The book section at another unit also was expanded and moved to a front alcove. Periodicals sales volume increased 10% at that unit. That department does not feature an enhanced children's area.

Besides expanding two departments, the retailer is aggressively promoting discount books. It sells bargain hardcover and children's books from dump bins about every six months.

A recent three-week promotion in mid-February at the two stores highlighted $1,500 worth of books in 400 different titles, generating 75% to 100% sell-through. The mix contained former best-selling titles by authors like John Saul, Danielle Steele and Dean Koontz, among others. Retails ranged from 99 cents to $16.99. Children's books, which normally sell for $4 to $10, were discounted to $1 to $2.

The store with the children's book rack saw book sales triple since the section was enlarged last fall, according to EDT-KroMar here, the chain's news supplier. Gerland's, which at one time had 14 video rental sections, may eventually phase out its two remaining video departments. Botkin wouldn't speculate on whether that space would be used to expand reading sections.