SUPERMARKET PRESENCE GETS BIGGER AT ECVS

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Overall attendance and supermarket participation were both up slightly at the East Coast Video Show held here Oct. 6 to 8.While show attendance rose from 8,558 last year to 8,612, exhibitors and others at the show reported seeing more supermarkets represented than in past years. Among the chains spotted at the show were Giant Eagle, Grand Union Co., K-VA-T Food Stores, Price

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Overall attendance and supermarket participation were both up slightly at the East Coast Video Show held here Oct. 6 to 8.

While show attendance rose from 8,558 last year to 8,612, exhibitors and others at the show reported seeing more supermarkets represented than in past years. Among the chains spotted at the show were Giant Eagle, Grand Union Co., K-VA-T Food Stores, Price Chopper Supermarkets, A&P, Harding's Friendly Markets, Tops Friendly Markets, Genuardi's Family Markets, Pathmark Stores and a number of independents and rackers.

Retailers found a show floor featuring all the major studios and participation by key distributors and other suppliers. In addition, there was an educational program hitting heavily on two of the hottest topics in the video industry today: DVD and the new rental buying programs. Several retailers attended a roundtable discussion on video in supermarkets hosted by SN.

Finding out more about DVD was a high priority for some. "This year we came back to the show because of DVD," said Brenda Vanover, director of video operations at K-VA-T Food Stores, Grundy, Va. "We are already renting the software and we want to see if we need to start renting the players. There's a lot of talk about DVD at the show."

Working closely with Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., as a representative of Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., Bill Marano found the show "a little lackluster." Marano formerly ran the successful video program of Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, and has been away from the video business for about a year. But he found the show useful. "I'm back talking to people and renewing old acquaintances. It's helped me in the process of getting back into the business," he said.

Harding's Friendly Markets, Plainwell, Mich., is getting ready to put in its first live-inventory video department, and Mike Kirby, director of operations, was at ECVS to look at fixturing and new products like DVD. "I found all the things I was looking for and saw all the people I needed to talk to. I'll be able to take that information back and use it to make decisions," he said.

A veteran of running leased-space and revenue-share rental departments, Ed Sam is launching a new company that will service video programs in supermarkets: Entertainment Management Services, Irwin, Pa. ECVS was a key opportunity in getting his company going. "I find that the people I need to speak with are here and the show is fairly crowded. It's been a good show," he said.

Supermarkets that don't attend ECVS are missing a prime opportunity to learn about the video business, said David Stewart, president of Video Consultants, Westwood, N.J., who used to own supermarkets and now runs several video departments for others. "If they would show up, it would be excellent for them. For example, there are seminars on DVD and Divx," he said.

But Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug, for Ingram Entertainment, said he saw a substantial increase in the number of supermarkets attending this year's ECVS. "They are committed to learning the latest technologies and they are committed to going to market in the most competitive way. Video departments are part of the one-stop-shopping concept and supermarkets are serious about satisfying their customers' needs."

Overall traffic on the exhibit floor was lighter than in past years, but that may have been due to an improved educational program, said Stewart Gershbaum, director of national accounts for Specialty Store Services, Morton Grove, Ill. "If the retailers are learning how to build their businesses, that's important because we are all in this for the long haul," he said. Gershbaum noted a greater interest in DVD compared with last year's show.

While supermarket executives are tough to meet with, ECVS is an opportunity to meet with their suppliers, said Khris Tahmin, national account manager at PPI Entertainment, Newark, N.J. "We work closely with the distributor reps who service the supermarket chains. They are very influential in selling our product to the Grand Unions, Wegmans and ShopRites.."

While retailers in the video business have been highly critical of the new limited-play variation on DVD known as Divx, Josh Dare, director of marketing at the Richmond, Va.-based Divx, said, "I've had a very cordial reception" at ECVS. "I've had good conversations with people who have explained to me what it would take for them to begin thinking about carrying Divx."