Supermarkets will not be in the spirit of giving this holiday when it comes to their photo-film sales.
Retailers' in-store space concerns and aggressive merchandising plans are giving way to a fight with mass merchandisers, drug stores, and even their own grocery section counterparts.
"[Photo and film] is an attack category," said Phil Simon, general merchandise promotion and merchandising manager for Minneapolis-based SuperValu's northwest division. "Everyone is fighting for the business, fighting to gain percentages."
Charles Yahn, vice president of nonfoods for Associated Wholesalers, York, Pa., said, "supermarkets are realizing they're losing to the mass [channel], so they're trying to get it back by aggressive pricing and merchandising." He told SN that supermarkets are trying to copy the mass and drug channel in terms of mobile placement; instead of positioning the category in one area, retailers are starting to dot displays around the entire store.
Indeed, 35mm and Advanced Photo System film and one-time use cameras are wildly competitive in the holiday-filled fourth quarter, and rightfully so. In the food channel, fourth quarter film sales accounted for nearly 28% of total dollar sales in 1999, according to Information Resources, Chicago. Though those figures are significant, comparison sales among the food, drug, and mass merchandiser channels are even more so. Supermarkets, with a 20.3% share in film dollar sales for 1999, trailed the drug and mass channels of trade, according to IRI. Drug took a 33% share and mass discounters registered a whopping 46.7% share.
The race is closer in the one-time-use camera segment. IRI said the food channel accounted for 25.5% of one-time-use camera dollar sales last year, while the drug and mass channels were neck and neck with shares of 37.3% and 37.2%, respectively.
Grant Blanchard, nonfood manager, Macey's, Sandy, Utah, said supermarkets may be lagging behind in sales due to no fault of their own. "We do not have as much display space in the stores as they do."
Sales for the category have been strong overall, however. According to the latest figures provided by the Photo Marketing Association, Jackson, Miss., 1999 total film unit sales (including instant, 35mm, APS film and one-time-use cameras) leaped 6.9% from 1998, to over 1 billion rolls. One-time-use cameras alone are driving the category upward, topping 139 million units sold in 1999, up from 110 million units sold in 1998.
Yahn said one-time-use cameras are big sellers simply because they are affordable, easy to use, and "they just take good pictures."
Convenience is the main reason for their popularity, retailers said. Brand names don't always sway consumers to buy one camera over the other. In fact, Bonnie Quick, director of general merchandise, G&R Felpausch Co., Hastings, Mich., said their best-selling one-time-use camera is a private label one.
Plain one-time use cameras are profitable on their own, but new trends such as translucent color designs, automatic frames, and additional accessories will make the product even bigger this season.
"New additions to the single-use camera category include belt clips and wrist straps, so they will be harder to lose," said Simon. He also said that automatic frames geared to the teen set would be popular, such as Barbie designs branded along the edges of each picture. Simon noted a surge in growth for seasonal-oriented cameras, such as graduation-themed automatic frames.
While a snappy accessory add-on may increase profit margin, film and one-time-use cameras cannot get by on looks alone. Space and location are vital to the selling of the merchandise -- any merchandise -- particularly in the fourth quarter.
Quick of G&R Felpausch said space is certainly a hot commodity during the holiday season. "We use power panels, clip strips, any place we can possibly find to put more inventory."
Yahn told SN that "everyone is trying to push into the fourth quarter, so it's the challenge of getting space into the store." With supermarkets also concentrating on food sections such as the candy aisle during this time, Yahn said, "it's all about real estate."
Another trend in the film and camera category takes advantage of limited space, and may even sell better because of it. For the past few years, film and one-time-use camera multi-packs have climbed in popularity, according to Brian Hammock, director of marketing in the film and one-time use camera segments for Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Elmsford, N.Y.
"For the past three or four years, film 2-packs have been the pack of choice for shoppers," said Hammock. He said the multi-packs are great impulse items, and they fit into the same planogram space as single packs. This makes for a "ring" increase over single rolls of film.
Hammock said most of the film sold is in multi-pack form. To capitalize on that success, Fuji Film will drive a "buy three, get one free" fourth quarter promotion, where a customer can purchase a 200 speed 35mm film 3-pack that has a free bonus roll of 400 speed film, Hammock said. The promotion will be available virtually every place Fuji products are sold.
He noted that "400 speed film is by far the fastest growing film speed segment, and we hope consumers will like the results and come back to purchase more 400 speed film." Promotional tie-ins are also wooing customers this upcoming holiday season. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, the Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y., is offering a special edition holiday frame featuring art by Norman Rockwell. With any purchase of Kodak Max 400 film 4-packs or Kodak Max Flash one-time-use camera, the hand-painted frame is bundled free. Though Kodak would not disclose specific retailers, the free gift promotion will be offered in supermarkets nationwide.
Beginning Nov. 1., Fuji will roll out an APS Nexia film 3-pack bundle, where consumers will receive a free storage library that protects negatives.
Manufacturers are pushing rebate programs that offer customers store credit, too. Diana Grazio, spokeswoman for Konica Photo Imaging, Mahwah, N.J., said the company will present "Konica Cash" with a purchase of a one-time-use camera 2-pack. A customer can receive a $5 credit to the particular store where they purchased the cameras after mailing in a proof-of-purchase form. The promotion will roll out Oct. 1.