Halloween is becoming an increasingly significant segment of the fourth-quarter video sales boom. Some in the industry even say it is second only to Christmas.
Seasonal releases of Halloween-themed movies and animated
children's features, old horror flicks -- and even titles that
happen to have a witch or a ghost or two -- are proving to be good impulse purchases at supermarkets.
"Halloween is becoming a bigger and bigger video season," said the video buyer for a leading Southern chain, who asked not to be
identified. At Halloween time, the chain highlights such titles as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the "Goosebumps" series.
He said some of the distributors are now offering mixed pre-packs, with different studio releases in them, including titles such as "Casper the Friendly Ghost" and "Halloween 1,2,3 and 4."
"Last year, we had an 82% sell-through on our Halloween videos," said the buyer, who expects this year to be even more successful. "Each year just keeps getting better and better."
In terms of overall holiday merchandise sales, Halloween is second only to Christmas, and video departments are starting to realize that and take advantage of it, said Kirk Kirkpatrick, vice president, sales for WaxWorks/Video Works, Owensboro, Ky.
"Halloween is kind of the kickoff for fourth-quarter video sales," said Kirkpatrick. "It has turned into a gift-giving type of season. People have parties, and I know that some stores have put together 'party packs' that include videos."
He said he has seen party-kits with masks, games, decorations, candy, crayons and coloring books and vampire teeth packaged in baskets (or in cardboard coffins for greater effect).
"Halloween has become a great additional holiday for us," said John Fincher, national account sales for Baker and Taylor Entertainment, MortonGrove, Ill., a distributor. "We expect this to be a big opportunity."
This season, Baker & Taylor is promoting the "Goosebumps" video and audio cassette series, based on the popular books, said Fincher.
Several chains have signed up for the program already, which will come in display shippers detailed with "Goosebumps" artwork. Promotional language tells consumers that "each story is packed with bone-chilling music and spine-tingling sound effects!"
Among supermarkets already committed to the promotion are: Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Pick 'n Save, Pewaukee, Wis.; and several divisions of the Oakland, Calif.-based Safeway chain, said Fincher.
The sell-through video market has grown in double digits for the past seven years, with a jump from last year of about 10%, according to Kirkpatrick. Others have said the increase is even greater than 10%.
In 1995, sell-through accounted for roughly 42% of the $5 billion video market, and this year it is expected to account for 46% or 47%, said Kirkpatrick.
"That is big business," said Kirkpatrick. "The entire theatrical industry is about one-quarter of that. If the domestic box-office does $1.5 billion, that's a record -- and we are doing four times that in video."
It's no wonder, then, that retailers are giving more emphasis to holiday sell-through programs.
"We do see Halloween as an important time to sell videos," said Shirley Decker, video buyer for Goff Food Stores, Haslett, Mich. The chain has been increasing its focus on Halloween "over the last couple of years," she said.
"We find that children's videos do well with holiday candy -- like it does at Easter and Christmas," said Decker. "We cross-merchandise the videos with candy in the main traffic area of the stores."
For Halloween, the focus is on the "lower end," that is, videos in the $9.95 to $12.95 range, she said. This year's offerings are expected to include "Winnie the Pooh" tapes and other Disney titles, said Decker.
Popular tapes last season included "Franken-Pooh" and the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow," she noted.
Ron McMullin, vice president, western region for Sight & Sound, St. Louis, Mo., a distributor, also said Halloween video sales "seem to be picking up momentum."
"Historically, it hasn't been a big item, but sell-through has been doing so much better this year, and there is so much more awareness of it."
He said his company's supermarket accounts are "making a commitment to Disney [Halloween] product that they haven't done in the past." Albertson's Idaho division, Reams, Salt Lake City and Harmons, West Valley City, Utah, are some of his customers who are bringing in Halloween sell-through product this year.
Overall, "we are doing a lot more sell-through at supermarkets," and are now offering planogram programs, theme-shippers and pallet-racks, said McMullin.
Some retailers, meanwhile, are easing their way into the Halloween spirit.
Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., will be doing "a little bit of special promotion at Halloween, basically on the scary kids' movies," said Jeff Manning, vice president, general merchandise. "We tie it in with the candy and stuff. We give it a little space on the candy display in the grocery department, and we do price them below the regular retails," said Manning, who declined to say what the prices this year will be. "You pick up a little incremental sales" through the Halloween displays, he added.
Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Tex., also plans to offer a limited selection of Halloween videos this year.
"We don't really get into the horror, but focus more on children's cartoons with a Halloween theme," said Joe Pat Smith, video, director/buyer.
He said there is not a chain-wide program on how to merchandise the Halloween videos. "That would be done on an individual-store basis, decorating or building special displays."
A Nebraska-based chain will also merchandise a select amount of sell-through video this season. "We will probably bring in another shipper -- probably Disney," said a video department clerk, who asked not to be identified.
Unfortunately, she said, the store's experience with sell-through hasn't been the best. "We've done Halloween sell-through in the past, but they do not really sell," she said. Thus far, the chain hasn't done any cross-merchandising with candy or other items, but she believes that would be a possibility in the future.
Dahl's, in Des Moines, Iowa, is still formulating its plans.
"Usually, we try to have a display, but this year I don't know yet because we just switched suppliers and I don't know what's available," said Marilyn Aldrich, video buyer for Dahl's.
"In the past, we've brought in the Disney Halloween shippers. But it will take another few weeks before plans are set for this year," said Aldrich.
A few retailers have yet to tie their video departments to the Halloween theme at all, including Byrd Food Stores, Burlington, N.C. "No, we never have," said Randall King, nonfood buyer. "I doubt if we will carry any of the Halloween titles," King said.
Bill Bryant, assistant vice president, major accounts/special markets for Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., thinks merchandising videos during the Halloween season will be especially difficult this year because of the strong titles expected to be released in late summer and fall. During the fourth quarter, "floor space becomes a premium and what otherwise may make a great promotion could be overlooked," said Bryant.
Retailers, he said, are going to be caught in a dilemma between merchandising Halloween-themed titles or blockbuster hits such as "Toy Story" and "Twister," both slated for an October release.
"Although it makes sense and is a perfect impulse item at Halloween, retailers have to choose between one title and another," said Bryant. The fourth quarter generally accounts for at least 30% of sell-through dollars, so making a wrong decision could be costly.
Meanwhile, supermarkets continue to gain a larger share of the sell-through market, said Bryant. In 1994, supermarket video sales accounted for 12.7% of all video sales. In 1995, it grew to 13.5% -- and that is expected to rise to 14.6% this year, said Bryant.
Kirkpatrick said other hot titles this year are expected to include "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein"; "The Wizard of Oz"; "ET," which takes place on Halloween; and "Ghostbusters."
"Every studio will have something, and I think retailers need to know how to take advantage of it," Kirkpatrick said. He recommends that stores should celebrate the month and not just the day.
"There is no shortage of ideas, and no shortage of product. I think this season could be the biggest ever for Halloween," said Kirkpatrick.
Elvis Concert Footage on Video
NEW YORK -- Rare Elvis Presley performance footage is contained in Lightyear Entertainment's "The Alternate Aloha Concert," which is being released Sept. 24. The video features dress rehearsal concert footage taken two days before Elvis Presley performed a concert on Jan. 14, 1973, in Hawaii.
The video, which runs 60 minutes and has a suggested retail price of $19.95, includes such Presley hits as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Suspicious Minds" and "Love Me." The video is distributed through Warner Vision/Warner Home Video.
Buena Vista Releasing Titles
BURBANK, Calif. -- Buena Vista Home Video is releasing eight sell-through video titles for the holidays. Available from Nov. 12, and priced at $19.99, the titles are "Mr. Holland's Opus," "Father of the Bride II," "Mighty Aphrodite," "Dead Presidents," "The Scarlet Letter," "Powder," "Unstrung Heroes" and "The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill, But Came Down A Mountain." Prebook date is Oct. 1. Consumers who purchase any two titles can receive a $5 rebate by mail. They must send in both proof-of-purchase tabs, dated cash register receipt and mail-in certificate. The offer is good from Nov. 12 to Dec. 31.