OKLAHOMA CITY -- Top supermarket chains in this metropolitan area have opted for profit over price point on the sell-through release of "The Santa Clause." There was generally a lower level of promotional and merchandising activity on this title than that seen on previous hits of about the same magnitude, SN found in store visits when the title was released late last month. Some supermarkets in this market area did not carry the Walt Disney Home Video title at all.
This reflects retailer reaction to a fourth quarter that is crowded with major sell-through titles, but none as big as "Snow White" and "Jurassic Park," released in October 1994, said industry observers. Those two titles combined shipped over 40 million units, almost as many as the combined total of this year's four October titles -- "Cinderella," "Casper," "Santa Clause" and "Batman Forever" -- according to industry sources. "Santa Clause" shipped about 12 million units, said the sources. It sold about five million units in its first two weeks on the market, according to Walt Disney Home Video.
With a steady stream of "event" titles, retailers who normally do a big job in video -- like Homeland Stores here and Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's -- scaled back their efforts on individual titles. Also, some who have less of a commitment to video -- like Food Lion and many of the independents in this market -- did not carry "Santa Clause" at all.
Because "Santa Clause" had a lower profile than other "event" titles, retailers were less inclined to use it to make a price statement. Instead, they relied on supermarket store traffic to drive convenience-oriented impulse sales at a higher margin. For example, Homeland priced "Santa Clause" at $14.99, while Albertson's was at $14.95, well above the $12.95 minimum advertised price seen at mass merchandisers and "category killer" stores. If retailers advertise a video below MAP, they cannot collect co-op dollars. They are free to set in-store pricing at any level and some choose to advertise at a lower price and sacrifice the co-op. Sam's Club, which does not advertise video and is frequently well below MAP on big video titles, set "Santa Clause" at $12.65. In contrast, in a price survey SN conducted on the street date of "Cinderella" in Columbus, Ohio, Sam's was at $13.87, more than a dollar below the $14.95 MAP. Similarly, a year ago, a Sam's store in Atlanta was at $13.76 on "Jurassic Park," which also had a $14.95 MAP. Many other retailers in the Oklahoma City market were at MAP or a little above on "Santa Clause." Selling the title at $12.95 were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Venture, Phar-Mor and Price Mart, a supermarket operated by Johnson Foods, Muskogee, Okla., and supplied by Associated Wholesale Grocers, Springfield, Mo. However, the Price Mart store in Edmond, Okla., visited by SN only had a handful of copies on hand. Blockbuster Video and Toys 'R' Us priced "Santa Clause" at $12.99. Camelot Music and Suncoast Motion Picture Co., both located in the Quail Springs Mall, were at $14.99. The Disney Store in the same mall had the highest price seen in the Oklahoma City market, selling the title for the suggested retail price of $19.99. The Eckerd drug store chain priced the movie at $17.99; a store visited by SN had about a dozen copies stocked behind the checkout counter. Target was priced uncharacteristically high on "Santa Clause" at $15.99 with a minimal display of the title. Curiously, a Target Greatland store in the Columbus area visited by SN earlier in October had a smaller-than-expected display of "Cinderella." This raises the possibility that this particular mass merchant's interest in big video titles may be lessening, said the observers. In terms of merchandising support, Albertson's stores SN visited had one of the biggest presentations in the market. In one store, the large attractive standee, which featured actor Tim Allen covered with blinking Christmas lights, was flanked by two 48-piece shippers. More copies were on an endcap in the store and inside the small live inventory rental department. Most of the other retailers visited made good use of the standee and shippers, but did not do much out of the ordinary to merchandise the title. For example, Homeland stores had a shipper and the standee, and the Price Mart store had about a dozen copies displayed on the base of the standee.
A new Wal-Mart Supercenter in Moore, Okla., only displayed the title on an endcap inside the electronics department, with the standee nearby. The Sam's Club SN visited had about 700 copies on hand, but they were merchandised on the same display platform as other videos -- and without the standee.
"The Santa Clause" wasn't heavily discounted at several Oklahoma City-area retailers when it was first released to the sell-through market. Big supermarket chains sought profits, and even Sam's Club stayed close to the $12.95 minimum advertised price.