KROGER VIDEO RENTAL PROGRAM GETS CONSUMERS' THUMBS UP

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- A promotion offering a Video Value Pak of 10 rentals for $9.95 perked up late January sales for the Kroger Marketing Area based here.During visits by SN to several Columbus-area stores, personnel said the Value Paks were moving briskly in what is traditionally a slow period for video rentals. "It's an outstanding value for our regular customers," said one employee. The Value Paks

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- A promotion offering a Video Value Pak of 10 rentals for $9.95 perked up late January sales for the Kroger Marketing Area based here.

During visits by SN to several Columbus-area stores, personnel said the Value Paks were moving briskly in what is traditionally a slow period for video rentals. "It's an outstanding value for our regular customers," said one employee. The Value Paks were outselling video rentals in another store, according to a different employee.

The Value Pak usually sells for $14.95. At the discounted price, customers paid 99 cents a rental, a saving of $1.50 off the regular new release price of $2.49. An official at the Kroger division declined to comment on the promotion. The offer was highlighted in the division's weekly circular in a box on the back page and through in-store signage. The ad also offered a coupon for one free movie rental. This was not promoted in-store, although the circulars were available near the main entrances.

In the Columbus area, Kroger opened two new stores late last year and both had video rental departments. In the same time period, the division also opened four smaller stores it had acquired from Cub Foods, Stillwater, Minn., and converted. None of the four Cub conversions had video departments, although they did have banks.

A new store that opened last fall in the northwest suburb of Dublin, Ohio, is the division's most advanced store from an aesthetic and merchandising perspective. The live inventory video rental department occupied almost 1,000 square feet, making it one of the division's largest. Inventory included 1,300 new release tapes and 1,000 catalog units.

Most live inventory video departments in the Kroger Columbus division are about 800 square feet or less, with about 2,000 units of inventory. Like other Kroger divisions, older stores in Columbus have non-live inventory video rental departments of varying sizes that are located in the center of the store, serviced by the same desk that sells cosmetics.

The department featured substantial new-release depth of copy. For example, there were 36 copies of "Contact," 32 copies of "Con Air," 30 copies of "Conspiracy Theory," 20 copies of "Picture Perfect" and 16 copies of "The Game." The department was also heavy on the recent direct-to-sell-through titles, with 24 copies of "Batman & Robin" and 36 copies each of "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," "Men In Black" and "George of the Jungle."

Previously viewed movies were displayed spine-out on an endcap, where "Men In Black" and "Lost World" sold for $7.99, and "Batman & Robin" sold for $5.99. There also was a four-sided rack with 400 pieces of under $10 sell-through products, including titles like "Sister Act," "Field of Dreams," "Big," "Sneakers" and "Good Morning Vietnam."

The second new store that opened last fall was in Whitehall, an area in eastern Columbus, with a lower-income demographic than upscale Dublin. That store had a 600-square-foot rental department with the same number of tapes.

New release rental rates at all Kroger departments were raised from $1.99 to $2.49 last year, although the Dublin and Whitehall departments opened with the new rates. Catalog titles rent for 50 cents a night and video games for 99 cents. All stores featured a Monday special on new releases that discounted the rental rate to 99 cents.