ARCADIA, Calif. -- Vons Cos. recently rolled out a low-priced computer software display program in all 322 of its stores, said Julie Reynolds, spokeswoman. The display units carry between 72 and 288 pieces of product that sells in most stores for $5 each. Titles include "Doom," "Raptor," "Epic Pinball" and "Virus Scan." "The product was offered to us at the right price point. We felt it was the right product to explore this particular category," said Reynolds. Vons has not carried computer software in the past, she said. The graphics of the display unit were a factor in the chain's decision to carry the product.
"It is an attractive display and we expect it will catch the consumer's attention," said Reynolds. The display program was rolled out on July 20. "Computer software is an up-and-coming category and we are testing programs to find one that is most compatible with the supermarket industry," said Dean Holzkamp, vice president, sales, U.S. Video, Aurora, Colo. U.S. Video is Vons' distributor. "It has a very attractive price point and very attractive packaging," he said. The product is both "shareware" and "openware," said Mar-Jeanne Tendler, chief executive officer, Wiz Technologies, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., a software publisher that makes the displays Vons is using. As "shareware," the programs can be copied freely and passed along from one consumer to another. As "openware," there are no additional fees for the consumers to pay after they buy and install the programs. "The supermarket and drugstore industries are realizing that with 50% of homes now having computers, half of all the people who walk through their doors are candidates for buying this software. It's growing more and more every day," said Tendler. "As people are buying bigger computers, they are selling their used ones, so people who couldn't afford a $1,000 computer are able to buy an older one for $300 to $400. With that happening, there's more and more need for the less expensive software. It's not cheap software, it's very good software, just at an inexpensive price," she said. Low-priced software addresses a new market for supermarkets and fits in with the one-stop shopping concept, Tendler added. "Supermarkets are trying to be a lot to everybody now. They are selling cosmetics, foods and flowers. They have dry cleaners and other services. Now people are going to be able to go in and even buy software," she said. The software carries an average mark-up of 40%, she noted. "It's a great mark-up for them. They are used to such low margins on their food that this is a good profit center. It's a phenomenal profit center for the supermarkets," she said.