Based on the stellar box-office performance of several key movies, retailers are getting ready for what they expect to be a very solid season for children's sell-through video.
With "Tarzan" already in stores, and with titles like "Pokemon: The First Movie," "Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and "Stuart Little" on the way, they are not likely to be disappointed. This line-up will be bolstered by direct-to-video features like "An American Tail: The Treasure of Manhattan Island," "An Extremely Goofy Movie," "Tom Sawyer," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," and the Olsen Twins' "Switching Goals," alongside established non-theatrical franchises like Blues Clues, Teletubbies, Winnie the Pooh, Veggie Tales, Sesame Street, Scooby Doo, Batman, Tom and Jerry, the Magic Schoolbus, Theodore Tugboat, Power Rangers, NASCAR Racers, Digimon, Thomas the Tank Engine and Barney.
Meanwhile, an ambitious re-release program from Disney has already launched with "Toy Story" and "Mulan," soon to be followed by "Pinocchio" and "The Aristocats." Other titles from various studios expected to bolster supermarket video sales before the end of the year are "Galaxy Quest," "Toy Story 2," "The Nutty Professor 2," "The Tigger Movie," "Dinosaur," "Snow Day," "Fantasia 2000," and two more Disney direct-to-video efforts, "Buzz Lightyear" and "Little Mermaid 2."
"I'm excited about the spring titles and anticipate that they will do well for sell-through," said Darlene Kiefer, services coordinator for Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio. "'Tarzan' will be really great, and the Pokemon movie is so popular we don't know what it will do. 'Star Wars' also should do well."
Among the titles Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., plans to carry this spring are "Tarzan" and "Star Wars," "which we think will do very well," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist. At Clyde Evans Markets, Lima, Ohio, Karen Welch, video buyer, expects some of the spring titles "to be strong sellers like 'Pokemon' and 'Star Wars."'
B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb., has always had "very good success with children's and family theatrical titles in our stores," said Bob Gettner, video buyer/coordinator. "I think the children's movies out there this spring will do very well for sell-through or rental."
"There's a very wide range of very saleable product being released by the studios," said Bill Bryant, vice president for sales, grocery and drug at Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "In comparison to last year, I think we've got a real strong slate," he said.
The studios are readying their promotional arsenals for the spring assault.
"We see that 1999 was a great year for family product," said Kelly Sooter, head of domestic home video at DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Glendale, Calif. "The Top 5 videos of the year were all family-oriented. There were more movies released direct to the sell-through market that were for a broader age range. We are finding that families are our core audience and they are aggressively out there purchasing and keeping the product alive," she said.
"It's a very, very strong season. It's going to be a very competitive season," said Dan Capone, vice president of marketing and development for family entertainment at Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif. "There are some major releases this spring, with 'Pokemon' being one of the biggest. For retailers, it's a great slate of product, but it is all laid out fairly well. Nothing is streeting on the same date and there are a few weeks between each release, so supermarkets have a great opportunity to make some money," he said.
Executives at Columbia TriStar Home Video, Culver City, Calif., refused to comment in any way on the upcoming release of "Stuart Little," a Christmas-season release still playing strongly in theaters and approaching $130 million in box-office revenues. However, they did talk up the benefits of cross-merchandising.
"There is a tremendous opportunity for grocery to grow the dollar amount that a mom spends in their store with an entertainment property," said Suzanne White, executive director of marketing. "The studios are constantly tying in with items available in grocery. If they worked more toward pairing that up and really making that event happen in their stores, I think they could realize a big benefit," she said.
"There are some supermarket chains that bring in our products in a bigger way than others," said Michael Arkin, senior vice president of marketing for Paramount Home Entertainment, Hollywood. "We are seeing an increasing awareness of the success of 'Blues Clues' specifically, and there are 'Blues Clues'-themed products from other companies, such as an apple sauce from Motts," he said.
Disney also has some major cross-promotions to go along with the "Imagination of a Lifetime" campaign supporting its Gold Collection program, said Dennis Maguire, senior vice president for sales at Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif. "Throughout 2000-2001, consumers can take advantage of instant savings from Energizer batteries with the purchase of select Gold Collection titles," he said. This is part of a two-year marketing alliance with Energizer, he added.
The "Imagination" program is "the largest campaign in our history and probably three times larger than anything we did in 1999." With it, Maguire estimates, Disney video products will grow 20% to 30% in sales. "With the change in strategy that the company has taken by putting more of our hits back into the marketplace at the lowest prices ever, we are going to deliver guaranteed growth this year for retail," he said.
Although retailers have traditionally struggled to implement cross-merchandising programs, some of those polled by SN are moving forward with them this spring.
"We take advantage of studio promotions that involve cross-promoting with grocery items and that helps sales," said Laura Fisher, video coordinator at Martin's Super Markets, South Bend, Ind.
"What we have done for 'Tarzan' is decorate our video departments to look like a jungle," said Kiefer of Seaway Food Town. During the display contest, stores that sell more copies of "Tarzan" than they did of "A Bug's Life" will qualify for prizes like T-shirts, plush products and CD players. "Customers have told us the decorated sections create excitement and interest in video for themselves and their children," she said.
Seaway Food Town also has boosted children's video sell-through by merchandising the tapes in separate 16-foot in-line sets away from the video rental department, said Kiefer. "It's helped sales. We make the space for this program during remodeling and it is now in 13 stores. The mix includes a lot of product priced at $9.99, as well as repriced hits."