While "Godzilla" the movie may be below box-office expectations, "Godzilla"-licensed merchandise is selling well at supermarkets.
During the past several weeks, kids have snapped up action figures and other themed items at chains like Ralph's, Winn-Dixie, Safeway, Pathmark, Kroger and Wegman's.
These retailers have displayed 144-piece "Godzilla" shippers, valued at $500 to $600 retail, at peak traffic-flow points. The displays feature plush figures, key chains, straws, mugs and pens, said Gary Trumbo, executive vice president of Equity Toys, Los Angeles, a "Godzilla" licensee.
For Supervalu-sponsored retailers, " 'Godzilla'-themed nonfood items have turned out to be a cash cow," said John Conzemius, general merchandise promotion manager at the wholesaler's Northern Region, Minneapolis.
Books and action figures "were the two best categories to come out of this [tie-in]," said Conzemius. "One thing that seems unusual in this particular promotion is that what's fairly soft at the box office isn't affecting the licenses."
Trumbo said "Godzilla" merchandise has done particularly well at supermarkets because of the heavier foot traffic. Many chains supplied by his firm sold much or all of their "Godzilla" items in the first week, he noted.
"The grocery channel also had a much faster sell-through rate than other retail formats because these products stood out better," Trumbo said. "At toy or mass outlets, they tend to blend in with other themed toys." Retail margins are approximately 30%.
Carr Gottstein Foods, Anchorage, Alaska, merchandised "Godzilla" items in its toy and video departments, where signs had been posted alerting customers to the upcoming release of the "Godzilla" video.
Movement of "Godzilla" key chains, action figures and other toys -- priced from $2.99 to $9.99 -- was only fair, said Gary Schloss, Carr's vice president of general merchandise. "We've seen better responses on other movies, but worse responses, too."
Associated Grocers, Baton Rouge, La., had a limited supply of "Godzilla" action figures for its retailers. "We didn't buy as much or in the variety we had intended, so we didn't do as much as could have been done," admitted Claude Millet, general merchandise buyer.
Priced at $7.95, the action figures sold out within three weeks at most Associated retailers, he said.
Despite the movie's sluggish performance, "Kids were looking forward to the licensed products," Millet said. "They don't think in terms of how well it did at the box office."
According to one Associated Press report, "Godzilla," released May 20, has grossed $123.7 million through June 15. Though poorly reviewed, the film is still playing at 3,310 locations; its average per-theater gross is $1,874. By comparison, "The Truman Show," the current No. 1 movie, is playing at 2,862 locations and is grossing an average of $6,992 per theater.
"Godzilla"-based merchandise is targeted primarily at boys aged 2 to 11, according to Sony Signatures, Los Angeles, the licensing division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, the film's producer. Sony counts 200 companies -- 70 domestic and 150 international -- among its "Godzilla"-licensing partners. They include Kodak, Swatch, Hershey's, Duracell, Taco Bell, KFC International and General Mills.
"Godzilla" tie-in items may get a second wind when the home video arrives this fall, Conzemius said.
"Typically, supermarkets tend to support a video release much more so than a theatrical release," he pointed out. "But there are very few toys that have made it to full-time status with that type of [box-office] beginning. I doubt this one will stay that long. It's no 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.' "
Schloss doesn't expect "Godzilla"-licensed items to be high on Christmas shopping lists, either. "They're more of a one-time product, without the long-term holding power of a 'Star Wars' or an 'ET,' " he said.
For Associated Grocers, "The big rush is when the movie first hits. I'd hate to buy additional 'Godzilla'-licensed items when demand may not be as good as it is now."