GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- D&W Food Centers here plans to debut its first large live video rental departments at three remodeled stores here.
The first of the three, now under construction, will open this summer, said Glen Fischer, video/photo coordinator. It will have an 800-square-foot store-within-a-store rental section with 2,500 to 3,000 units of inventory. The two other stores, which will open in the fall, will have 1,000-square-foot sections with 3,000 to 4,000 rental units. The stores now have 1,000 to 1,500 units of rental inventory merchandised in-line with the actual tape inventory stored behind the service counter. "With the new structure, it will be a live system where customers can touch and feel the tape, check it out and leave the box art on the shelf," said Fischer. "The store-within-a-store gives us a little more space. We can be a little more creative with some displays and go deeper on titles." The remodels also will incorporate a design that will allow for more effective servicing of photo processing customers along with the video rentals, said Fischer. "The desk will be designed in such a way that the photo customers will not have to enter the video part of department," he said. This arrangement will speed up transactions in both areas, especially at peak times like weekends. The counter also will be the general customer service desk for the store. In two stores where D&W now has on-site photo processing machines, there are many demands on customer service associates. They take care of photo, video rentals, bottle returns, utility bills, stamp sales and postal services, among others. This results in long lines and less video and photo business. "I think it is quite discouraging for a (photo or video) customer to have to wait behind other customers who are paying their utility bills, mailing a package, or returning their bottles," said Fischer. "Although we have been very successful with that structure in video, I think we are topped out. You cannot squeeze anymore out of the video department until we change the way we are laying it out. That's why we are doing what we are doing," he said. Fischer expects that during the early part of the week, the remodeled stores will be able to get by most of the time with one person staffing the desk. "But at other times, especially on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, there will be as many as two to five associates working in that area," he said. Photo processing tends to be busiest in the morning, while the video traffic comes in the evenings. "We are going to have wait and see, look at the peaks and valleys, and schedule accordingly," he said. The selection in the enlarged departments will be similar to what the retailer has now in its 32- to 60-foot in-line sections -- mostly movies, children's videos and video games, along with blank tapes and batteries. Film, disposable cameras, photo albums and frames will be displayed in shadow boxes on the front of the service counter in the remodeled stores. "I don't think our mix is going to change a whole lot. The biggest change will be in the variety and the depth of our selection, especially when we get a tape that comes out at a sell-through cost, like 'Forrest Gump,' we'll be going 50 to 100 deep on it," he said. D&W will put a bigger emphasis on sell-through video in the live departments, Fischer noted. "We will probably double the number of sell-through promotions we do in those stores just because of the availability of display area," he said. "That's probably the biggest problem we have with our current format. We run very clean stores and don't do a lot with cardboard shippers in any department. So it makes it very difficult unless we can utilize space right on our video fixtures to display sell-through," Fischer said. D&W's video expansion reflects that company's commitment to video, as well as the major studios' increased interest in supermarkets, he said. "Supermarket video is going to continue to grow and I think the studios have recognized this. I'm seeing more and more promotions where they tie-in with a packaged goods manufacturer, Pillsbury with 'Lion King,' for instance," he said.