STRONG SUPERMARKET PRESENCE SEEN AT VSDA

LAS VEGAS -- Exhibitors and other suppliers attending VSDA reported strong supermarket attendance, participation and business activity at the show."It's been a very strong show for us, as it has been in previous years," said Mike Aufricht, vice president of retail marketing at Buena Vista Home Video, Burbank, Calif. "It's a good show for supermarket video and a great show for us," he said."There is

LAS VEGAS -- Exhibitors and other suppliers attending VSDA reported strong supermarket attendance, participation and business activity at the show.

"It's been a very strong show for us, as it has been in previous years," said Mike Aufricht, vice president of retail marketing at Buena Vista Home Video, Burbank, Calif. "It's a good show for supermarket video and a great show for us," he said.

"There is a lot of activity on the floor. We have meetings scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as dinners. Everybody seems to be here," said Corie Tappin, vice president of marketing sell-through at MGM Home Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif.

"From the supermarket perspective, we've had enormously successful meetings," said Doug Dohmen, vice president of sales at Hallmark Home Entertainment, Los Angeles. "But our products' demographics fit really well with grocery stores," he said.

"Overall I would say that supermarket participation is up," said Tom Szwak, senior vice president of sales at Republic Entertainment, Los Angeles. "As the sell-through trend continues to grow, certainly the business supermarkets do in sell-through is going to increase," he said.

"It's been just an outstanding show for us," said Des Walsh, vice president and general manager at SuperComm, Dallas. "We've had the opportunity to meet with about 15 of our key retailers and several prospective accounts."

Retailers coming to the show benefit from the exchange of ideas with their peers, he noted. "What never fails to astonish me is the number of good ideas that I hear evolve in the casual conversations between retailers at various functions and seminars. Video rental buyers or category managers normally do not attend shows such as FMI, and the VSDA trade show represents their best opportunity to discuss common challenges and concerns with fellow supermarket video rental operators," he said.

"Sometimes, because most of the major retailers decline to talk about their video rental success to the trade press, it is too easy for retailers to believe that video rental in supermarkets is not thriving. Coming to a show like this allows retailers to interact with other retailers who are achieving tremendous success with video rental. As a result they go away with renewed commitment and enthusiasm, knowing that the rental business is alive and well," Walsh said.

"We are moving into a new era, the next phase of the business," said John Fincher, national accounts sales manager at Baker & Taylor Entertainment, Morton Grove, Ill. "It's not just about having movies on the wall, but marketing your business. If you are going to be a player in this environment, you have to have a relationship with the studios, specifically for their marketing support. As the cost of movies rises, so must the market support from the studios to drive the business," he said.

"The supermarkets who are here understand the value of making the investment in the show that allows them to communicate what is happening with their businesses to the suppliers who drive the marketing of the overall business," said Fincher.

Many suppliers were pleased to see the show return to Las Vegas, its most successful venue in the past.

"Everybody is very happy to be back in Las Vegas," said Michael Arkin, senior vice president of marketing at Paramount Home Video, Hollywood, Calif. "There is a renewed sense of involvement and a renewed optimism about the convention," he noted.

But others found the show lacking in the level of excitement they felt it should have had.

"As I look at this show, the industry is under such a cloud of problems," said Jeffrey Yapp, president, worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Beverly Hills, Calif. "But what is the purpose of the show? It is to make the business feel good about itself again," he said.

"But if you look around the floor and what is being said on the floor, we are messing it up. These people need to know that this is a great business and there is a lot of vitality in it. But as you walk around the show floor, you don't feel it," said Yapp.