Country line-dancing videos are a surprise success for sell-through and rental.
The burgeoning popularity of country-and-western music and the proliferation of country dance clubs is driving the market for these tapes, said retailers. It's so strong that many are starting to wonder if it is more than just the latest dance craze.
"It's going to be around for quite a while," said Gary Andrews, video manager for Reeble's, Emporia, Kan.
"It could be a long fad. Country-and-western music has been around for a long, long time, and I don't think it is going to be anything like disco that was in and out," Andrews said.
"It's here to stay," said Renee Clay Thomas, video supervisor at Clay Stores, Hardy, Ark., reflecting reports from her department managers.
"Country music has grown so much in the last few years and line dancing is a part of that attitude and lifestyle," said Ron Weinstein, president of Block & 'Stein, Avon, Conn., a marketing, promotions and distribution company.
"Every place you turn right now it's 'country' something," said Amy Innerfield, an industry analyst with Alexander & Associates, New York. "It's hard to say whether line dancing is a fad or not," she said.
Among the suppliers marketing country line-dance instructional tapes are Brentwood Home Video, Westlake Village, Calif.; Cabin Fever Entertainment, Greenwich, Conn.; Diamond Entertainment Corp., Anaheim, Calif.; Quality Video, Minneapolis; MNTEX Entertainment, Prior Lake, Minn.; the Parade Video label of PPI Entertainment Group, Newark, N.J.; Simitar Entertainment, Plymouth, Minn., and the Columbia and Epic video labels of Sony Music, New York.
The growth of country line-dancing tapes is yet another example of the potential of special-interest video, noted industry observers. They tap a need that cannot be filled by theatrical movies and, as a sell-through item, can be very profitable.
Some said it also is an outgrowth of the fitness video category.
"It's dancing, but really another form of exercise, too," said Innerfield. "It's a great cardiovascular workout," she said.
"Line dancing is a painless way to exercise," said Weinstein. "It gets the couch potatoes up and on the floor and moving in an enjoyable way."
Retailers could increase sales by cross-merchandising line-dancing tapes with fitness workout tapes, especially those set to country music, he added.
Many retailers find country line-dancing tapes to be a strong sell-through product segment. Most offer shippers, but others carry the products in in-line sell-through sections.
Line-dancing tapes are "excellent," said Kirk Mueldener, video distribution manager at Hy-Vee Food Stores, Chariton, Iowa. "We ran a [shipper-based] program once and had about an 80% sell-off," he said. The program would have done better if not for some karaoke products that did not sell, he said.
A buyer for a Northeast chain, who asked not to be identified, evaluated a low-priced line of country dance tapes that would retail for $5.99 to $7.99. "It seems to be selling well everywhere, but I have real reservations about the quality of the product and how it will be in a couple of months when the people go back to look at it again," the buyer said.
Because his managers have enjoyed good success with country line-dance videos they ordered on their own, Mike Miller, general manager of the video operations of Ball's Super Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan., is considering bringing in the product chainwide.
"The managers had so many requests in the stores that they found some product and ordered it. It seems to sell," said Miller. "People want to learn how to two-step."
Country Mart, located in Hollister, Mo., a town adjacent to the country-and-western mecca of Branson, might bring some line-dance tapes in for sell-through, said Mary Jo Meyer, video manager. Of the titles she offers for rental, "two or three are doing really well -- maybe because 'Achy Breaky Heart' is on them -- but the others don't get picked up," she said.
Success with country line-dancing videos varies by location more than other product segments, even within the same chain. Although stores outside major metropolitan areas seem to do better with the tapes, the real key is the presence of country line-dancing clubs in a given area.
"This town has really gotten big on country line dancing. A couple of bars have switched over to a country-and-western theme," said Shirley Decker, video buyer for Goff Food Stores, Haslett, Mich. Some Goff employees are heavily into line dancing, she noted, and "the radio stations and bars are promoting it."
For Clay Stores, the tapes do best in towns that do not prohibit alcohol and where the bars promote line dancing, said Thomas. Scrivner's Festival Foods division, Omaha, Neb., has stores in metropolitan and rural areas, and the line-dancing tapes do best in the rural stores, said Jerry Svoboda, grocery buyer-video coordinator. "In towns like Columbus, Fremont and Lincoln, Neb., country line dancing did real well. It didn't do as well in the Omaha metro area," he said.
The line-dancing tapes do well in western Kansas towns, such as Colby and Goodland, said Kerry Smith, district manager of Scrivner's Boogaart Retail Division, Concordia, Kan. Customer requests were the main reason Boogaart brought the tapes in, he said. "In some places we don't have competition from a mass merchant, so the customers asked our video departments to special order the line-dancing tapes.
The retailer's video department franchisor, Grocer's Video Systems, Olathe, Kan., helped Smith make the buying decisions, he said.