WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Big changes are in the works for Raley's video rental departments. The retailer got a new racker June 1 when Market One Video, Salt Lake City, acquired the assets of Marathon Entertainment, Rancho Cordova, Calif., said Dan Black, Raley's nonfood buyer-merchandiser. Following that change, the chain is beefing up its 63 video departments with "new arrival" sections, a new video magazine for customers, large audio book selections and a children's video club. Raley's also is sprucing up and streamlining many of its rental departments with new category signs and plans to increase its number of new releases. "It's part of a stronger emphasis we are placing on video," said Black.
Overhauling the departments will take about 18 months, he noted. When the departments are enlarged and remodeled, total rental inventories will be about the same as they are now in larger stores, but with more new releases. Raley's stores now carry as many as 3,000 rental units of 500 to 1,800 individual titles. The retailer's arrangement with Market One calls for the racker to put in more of the new titles, he said.
The remodeled departments will be 400 square feet to 500 square feet and will have new fixtures, he said. "The number of titles will grow as we remodel older stores that perhaps had only a small in-line section before," said Black. The retailer is creating a "new arrival" section for titles that no longer qualify as new releases, but are still current. That should also spark stronger rental activity, he said. "There are a lot of good movies out that were new releases six to 24 months ago that many people haven't seen. These can be rotated in," said Black. "The exact number can vary
depending on the time of year and how many good titles are available. Some months there are only three to four good titles and other months there are 12 to 15 good ones," he said. The new arrival section will be a 6- to 8-foot wide wall rack and contain 100 to 150 different titles. With the regular rotation of titles, "the section will have a new look each month." These titles will include "library titles, HBO specials or new theatrical releases that have come and gone, and that not everyone has rented." Raley's has tried a similar approach in the past, "but sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Hopefully, the new one will work better than the last one," noted Black. Raley's began offering a new monthly magazine provided by Market One this month. The publication reviews 15 to 20 new releases and other recent tapes. The retailer hopes that it will heighten interest in a wider number of titles and stimulate rental volume for the previous month's releases. Handing out "fliers that critique a movie or new releases when they come out is something we've looked at for years, but we never did anything about it. An advance critique gives customers a glimpse of what the movie is about instead of taking it home and finding out they didn't want to watch it," said Black. Audio books represent a developing market, he said. The popularity of the audio books is still growing and their sales potential hasn't been maximized, he said. "Audio books have been available for years at a $15 retail, but nobody wanted to buy them. But they do rent for $1 a day or $4 to $5 a week. People are traveling more, there are a growing number of dual-income families and commuting time is lengthening because of heavier traffic. All this has helped increase the market for audio books," said Black. "We tested about 180 audio books in four or five test stores, and they went over very well. We got to the point where we were getting requests for them from the other stores. So now they are going into all stores," he said. Raley's video departments are positioned next to the camera department to the right or left side of the store, just inside the front door.