WHOLE HEALTH

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here is expanding a video sell-through program featuring yoga and other health-related titles.The 87-store chain will add seven stores this month to the 15 that already carry the product, said Mark Slater, president of Newmark Media, Addison, Ill., which racks the stores. The videos are merchandised near books and magazines on a spinner holding 100 units, he said.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here is expanding a video sell-through program featuring yoga and other health-related titles.

The 87-store chain will add seven stores this month to the 15 that already carry the product, said Mark Slater, president of Newmark Media, Addison, Ill., which racks the stores. The videos are merchandised near books and magazines on a spinner holding 100 units, he said. Newmark also supplies the books and magazines in sections ranging from 12 to 20 linear feet.

"We are turning that fixture anywhere between 12 and 14 times a year, which is outstanding," said Slater. The product is from Living Arts, Santa Monica, Calif., and most of the titles retail for under $10. The selection includes yoga tapes, an abs program, a stress-relief program and a back-care program.

The fastest-moving titles are Living Arts' recent releases "AM Yoga for Beginners" and "PM Yoga for Beginners," both of which retail for $9.98, noted Jules Reeves, associate nutrition team leader at the Wheaton, Ill., Whole Foods store. The rack at Reeves' store has to be restocked every week, she said.

"The customers who shop at Whole Foods look for these

types of videos, especially the beginners' yoga tapes. Alternative health care has become more mainstream, but a lot of people aren't familiar with yoga, so it fits our clientele and it fits people's curiosity," said Reeves. Whole Foods is expanding its selection of videos to include more children's titles, like a yoga tape for kids, she added.

The chain also will put in gift sets from Living Arts in time for the holiday selling season in November, noted Slater. These will be merchandised differently depending upon space available in the stores. "These are great fourth-quarter items that we do significant billing with," he said.

The spinner program would also work in mainstream supermarkets that are putting in natural-food programs, said Slater, adding that he is now negotiating with other major supermarket chains, which he would not identify. Newmark services a total of 60 stores, including Whole Foods and a variety of specialty and other outlets.

"Some of the mainstream grocery retailers are starting to put in more organic produce. They are starting to put in more supplements and herbal items. But it's the lack of information in the market that we are able to support. For a lot of consumers, the only way that they can get information on natural lifestyles, remedies and related topics is through books, magazines and videos. For stores that are trying to build this business, our mix would be very well received," said Slater.

Among the chains that have carried Living Arts products are Gelson's Markets, Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Kroger Co., Price Chopper Supermarkets and Raley's Supermarkets. "The product we are designing now is ideal for heavy-traffic environments like supermarkets," said Steve Adams, president of Living Arts. "All the products are solution-oriented and attractively priced at around $10 each.

"Our product historically has done extremely well in the natural-food channel. Their consumer profile fits ours quite well in terms of what they are looking for," he said. Traditionally, fitness tapes have appealed to women ages 24 to 34, but the beginners' yoga tapes expand that market to include ages 24 to 60 and men, he said.

"We are finding that a lot of women who were involved in the aerobics craze in the late '80s and early '90s have, of course, matured. We are taking that audience with us, but also pulling in a younger audience, so we are getting the best of both worlds," said Adams.

"Our genre is mirroring what is happening in the natural-product area, and fitness is a part of a well-rounded program for the consumer. The price of the product is certainly not a limitation in supermarkets. There is a lot of publicity that is being generated by a very growing business around our category. I think it has a very, very long reach."