TWO STORES ARE RECORDING A HIT WITH CD VENDING MACHINE

MIAMI -- Two retailers are successfully testing a new compact-disc vending machine that incorporates top song titles with an advanced sampling device.The machines are in two stores, one a unit of Hyde Park Markets, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the other a unit of Treasure Island Foods, Chicago. The supplier is Intune, based here."Customers know it is here," said Frank Blackwell, manager of Treasure

MIAMI -- Two retailers are successfully testing a new compact-disc vending machine that incorporates top song titles with an advanced sampling device.

The machines are in two stores, one a unit of Hyde Park Markets, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the other a unit of Treasure Island Foods, Chicago. The supplier is Intune, based here.

"Customers know it is here," said Frank Blackwell, manager of Treasure Island's Clybourne Street store in Chicago. "They come and check it out, and they hear the music. We are selling a lot of CDs out of it."

The unit is located in the front of the store, near the entrance, he noted. "As soon as you walk in the door, you see it."

The vending machine is also doing well in the Hyde Park test, said Vic Little, manager of the Las Olas Boulevard store in Fort Lauderdale. "It's something unique, and it gets people into the store," he said. The machine is especially popular with vacationers, he noted. "The hotter the title is, the better it does."

The 72-inch-high by 34-inch-wide machine holds 24 stockkeeping units, said Joe Risolia, president of Intune. The supermarket units incorporate a special domed speaker system from Brown Innovations, Chicago, which allows customers standing in front of the vending machine to sample music without disturbing people around them. "It is the perfect complement to our machine," he said.

Risolia hopes to have 500 of the CD vending machines in the field by the end of the year. "But we are developing several markets, such as movie theaters, universities and airports, along with supermarkets," he said. Intune is also developing a DVD vending machine, he added.

In the early stages of the test, which has been going on for three months, the machine sold an average of 20 CDs a day, said Risolia. "It's amazing. The machine draws customers in. They see the audio dome from the aisle and they are immediately attracted. It literally stops people in the aisles."

The machines offer popular music at prices just above those of discount stores', as well as specialty products. "It is pure convenience. There are so many music lovers who don't get the chance to go to the music store nowadays. It allows someone to pick up their favorite music product in an environment that is easy and convenient. It's the perfect endcap for the supermarket, and it totally eliminates shrinkage," Risolia said.

CD vending machines in supermarkets are "a natural fit," said Jeff Heppert, president of Sound Byte Entertainment Co., Mundelein, Ill., which is selling and servicing the machines in the Chicago area. But "a supermarket does not have the floor space to devote 10 feet to music, although there is a need," he said.

With the vending concept, "it's self-service, so how can you go wrong? We service the machine, we fill it, then we present the retailers with a check. It's very simple," Heppert said.