In the past, the Harry Potter book phenomenon has found supermarkets on the sidelines, but for last month's publication of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by J.K. Rowling, chains were right in the thick of things.
Retailers like Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., Quincy, Mass.; Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh; and Penn Traffic, Syracuse, N.Y., enjoyed success as the fifth book in the popular series flew off the shelves to the tune of a record five million copies in its first weekend. Some, like Stop & Shop, also cross-merchandised the book with Harry Potter videos and other licensed items.
Joe Ramirez, spokesman for Penn Traffic, which carried the book in all 212 of its stores, said that this was the first time that supermarkets have had access to substantial distribution of a Harry Potter title. Many supermarket chains had been dissatisfied with their allocation of the books in the past, he said.
"This time was different; the book had a much wider distribution. We've been much happier with the allotment of books we received this time around," he said.
Penn Traffic retailed "Order of the Phoenix" for $17.99, and supported it by advertising in weekly flyers. The chain did not cross-merchandise the book with videos, but does carry "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" video games, along with a licensed line of children's personal care products.
Stop & Shop was one of the few supermarket chains to tie in the book with the video titles. The Ahold division cross-promoted Harry Potter books with DVD and VHS product in its in-line and entertainment sections, according to Bill Bryant, vice president, sales, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. Space and an ongoing entertainment software program, like Stop & Shop's, are crucial to effective cross-merchandising, he said.
"Plenty of potential exists for supermarkets that are willing to promote multiple formats. Dedicated space is the key, which more supermarkets are utilizing," Bryant explained.
Giant Eagle, which carried "Order of the Phoenix" at all of its corporate stores and the majority of its independents, did not cross-merchandise or advertise the book, said Brian Frey, marketing assistant for the chain, although it does carry the video. In Giant Eagle locations that have book departments, the book was merchandised there. In other stores, freestanding display units were used, Frey said.
The chain did tie the book to its loyalty card program for $17.99 by offering a $12 discount from the suggested retail price of $29.99, he said.
On the first day the book was available, Giant Eagle sold 6,000 copies. That total increased to 8,000 by the end of day two, Frey told SN. The retailer experienced some delays in obtaining reorders, he said. The publisher, Scholastic, New York, has ordered a third printing of the book for 800,000 copies, bringing the total number in print to 9.3 million for the United States.