Children's videos are wildly popular at home and, increasingly, on the go. Like all other video categories, they are moving quickly from VHS to DVD.
The children's video category is "wonderful," said Theresa Daniels, video manager for McMaken's Supermarkets' McVideo in Brookville, Ohio. "No matter what I put out there, it moves." In fact, children's titles are the only ones that she continues to order on VHS. "Where normally I'll get two or one or even no [VHS titles], on children's I usually get at least four." The reason is quite practical.
"The parents bought DVD players and have given the kids their VHS machines," Daniels explained. McMaken's, which maintains a well-merchandised children's section with decor flourishes like stuffed animals and other toys, only began purchasing children's DVDs in the last five or six months.
Children's videos "are always very successful as far as both rental and sales in the grocery market," said Bob Gettner, video buyer/coordinator for B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb. "As far as sales here go, they're probably No. 1. All the other top movies are right behind them. We sell kids and family titles the best."
The decision is consumer-driven. "It's because of our environment," he noted. "We're getting families, so we cater to that whole audience. Kids has been a stable, holds-its-own kind of category." Selected B&R locations will sometimes put what Gettner called a "big push" behind a particular kids' movie. One store, for example, does a lot with Disney titles, including costumed characters and games. "We don't really get a lot out of it except for exposure, bringing people into the store," he admitted.
VHS Hangs On
VHS is still stronger than DVD when it comes to the children's category, Gettner confirmed, if only because his stores have begun purchasing kids' DVDs in the last 12 to 18 months. "As far as our stores go," he said, "VHS still kind of dominates that category, but the ratio is changing."
Eventually, Daniels said, VHS versions of children's titles will, as in other categories, begin to be phased out. "In fact, I'd say about three-fourths of my children's movies now are VHS, and one quarter are DVD. With my other sections -- drama, comedy -- I'm probably 90% DVD and 10% VHS."
Merchandising also remains a store-by-store decision at B&R. Where children's videos are displayed "has a lot to do with" their turnover rate, he noted. "We have them strategically placed in the departments so they're always close by where mom and dad might be looking for a movie."
Carrie Dieterich, vice president of marketing and industry relations for the Video Software Dealers Association, Encino, Calif., noted that while her organization "doesn't have a lot of information on trends specific to children's product ... like all genres, the movement toward DVD over the past few years has been significant."
In 2002, for example, 287 children's non-feature titles were released on DVD, according to Ralph Tribbey's DVD Release Report. In 2004, the number of these non-feature children's titles released on DVD grew to 473 -- an increase of 40%, she said.
Bill Bryant, vice president of sales for Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., credited the category's growth to the fact that most children's franchises have lower suggested retail prices, "which generate impulse purchases in a supermarket environment. Most classes of trade price them comparably. This affords supermarkets a level playing field; [thus], children's video performs well in the supermarket channel."
Suzanne White, vice president of marketing for Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, Culver City, Calif., said she sees an emphasis on educational content and believes it is "really important. We're seeing items that are added onto the DVD tending to be more educational in nature. There is still entertainment value to them, but also something the kids can have some additional learning from."
As an example, White pointed to Columbia TriStar's recent re-release of "Matilda." The new version of the story by Roald Dahl will include educational content like spelling and math games, and a featurette that introduces kids to "the wonders of the public library, and how to use it in a fun and entertaining way for kids."
Watch What titles are kids craving?
Daniels said she does very well with many of the Nickelodeon cartoons, first among them being "SpongeBob SquarePants." "It has kind of pushed 'Power Rangers' down, although I still do really well with 'Power Rangers.' Of course, 'Finding Nemo' was probably the biggest recent title." She added that the Disney title, "The Three Musketeers," starring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy, has "kind of drooped a little bit."
The popular title ahead figures to be "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." "'Shark Tale' [is] really going to move out the door," Daniels predicted. Another likely success will be the latest Scooby-Doo release. "Scooby-Doo has always done really well. When they started using [actors] instead of the animation, I moved that over to family."
Ingram's Bryant also agreed the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise "has been picking up momentum, and others, such as Dora and Bob the Builder, continue to have a strong following." He identified several titles to watch in the months ahead, including major animated releases like "Shark Tale" on Feb 8; "Bambi" on March 1; "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" on March 1; and "The Incredibles" on March 15. Later in the year, the list of hot titles will include "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" [May], "Chicken Little" [October], and "Madagascar" [November or December]. To that list, Roe added the Jim Carrey vehicle "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events."