A number of supermarkets are following the lead of specialty shops and installing in-store monitors to promote video rentals and games.
There are very few downsides to using monitors as a promotional tool, according to video managers at leading grocery chains. Monitors can not only publicize new releases but they are effectively being used to promote older releases and "B" titles.
Video managers only caution that the trailers should be carefully screened for appropriateness in a grocery store setting and that managers should make sure that promoted titles are available.
"It attracts customers and we want to get them into the department and rent the video," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist at Bashas', Chandler, Ariz. Bashas' has installed the monitors in three "live" stores and intends to have them in all new ones.
The chain has some "live" video departments. Each department has three monitors, one in each corner, continuously playing a new release or a trailer featuring new releases, Glaseman said.
Angeli's, Menomonie, Wis., sometimes uses the monitors to screen older titles, said Maria Boye, team leader in video.
"On a busy Saturday night when all the new releases are out, we put in an older in-store loop [trailer]. When customers see it, it reminds them of what they had not seen and they ask if we have it. Chances are that the older titles are in stock. That seems to be a good selling tool for rentals," Boye said.
The three-store retailer has two monitors in the video departments at its Iron River and Marinette stores and four monitors in the video department of the Menomonie store. All monitors play the same thing, she said.
"We have had them since the video departments opened. Usually we play promotional loops sent by the studios. At Christmas we run cartoons. If a Disney title comes out, we run the whole movie for the first couple of days," Boye said.
Marilyn Aldrich, video buyer at Dahl's Food Markets, Des Moines, Iowa, said that video monitors seem to help movement of rentals.
Monitors have been installed in two or three stores in the last four to five months and those stores have seen an increase in rental business, she said.
"We monitor the number of rentals so we know how to base our buys. Volume has been up in those stores. They show both trailers and full-run movies. We let them [store personnel] decide. Each store has one monitor in the video department. Video suppliers provide us with trailers and extra point-of-purchase materials," Aldrich said.
About half of the 38 stores operated by Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., have rental video departments, said Randy Weddington, video specialist.
The monitors are not installed in stores that only have sell-through video, because it is felt sufficient promotion is done by the studios and sell-through requires a bigger investment from the consumer, he said.
"It seems to work better for video rentals. We use the monitors mainly as a tool for pushing older titles or more "B" type titles that may be less familiar to customers. We stick with features as much as we can, rather than trailers. We just run the whole movie and keep the monitor running continuously," he said.
Boye of Angeli's said the loops sent by the studios are effective.
"Guests [customers] will come to the counter and say they want to rent the video that just ran on the monitor. It may be a good "B" title they had not seen," she said.
Sometimes Angeli's uses the monitors to promote movie matchups provided by the studios. A recently released or currently playing movie will be shown on the monitor, while posters and pamphlets inform customers, "if you like this, then you will love these titles," suggesting comparable videos available for rent, Boye said.
All the retailers contacted said they have guidelines regarding what can be played, avoiding anything beyond a PG rating and watching for excessive violence and offensive language.
B&R Stores, Lincoln, Neb., has video monitors in all 10 of its stores, said Bob Gettner, video buyer and coordinator.
Most stores have just one monitor, but two units have three monitors strategically placed so the video is visible anywhere within the department, he said. The stores have the option of running full-length movies or loop tapes supplied by distributors, so long as they are G- or PG-rated, Gettner said.
"There is no downside to doing this. It is an attention-getter for the customer. Our employees just tune it out. It is on almost all the time. The studio loops provide information to our customers," he said.
When a full-length feature is shown, the jacket is placed next to the VCR so customers will know what it is, Gettner said.
Other retailers contacted said customers can ask at the counter if they want to know what is playing.
Glaseman of Bashas', Weddington of Harps and Gettner at B&R said it is hard to measure the effect of the in-store video monitors on rentals, but they still endorse the concept.
"It is a matter of long-standing policy. The monitors have been in place six years or so. You just do what you think will work. Like so many things in the video business, the decision is based on a gut feeling," Weddington said.
"We figure it can't do any harm. It is now part of our initial new store setup. If the equipment breaks down, the store wants to know how soon we can get it fixed. The employees really like it," Glaseman said.
"We feel it is a good thing. Every department should have some type of monitor. It creates some noise to attract customers," Gettner said.
Goff Food Stores, Haslett, Mich., has a monitor playing different movies at its customer-service counter, to entertain people waiting to buy money orders, said Shirley Decker, video buyer.
The monitor has been installed in two of its five stores that still have video rental departments. They have been in place three years, she said.
"We just run a whole movie, G- or PG-rated. We put the box or cover next to the monitor. We haven't seen any difference in our rental business," she said.
Occasionally the stores will run a studio trailer, but only if all the titles featured are available in the store and none are R-rated, Decker said.
"We try to stick with the newest releases. The stores can decide for themselves what to show, but must follow the guidelines. The kids seem to notice the video and tell their parents about it," Decker said.
Retailers reported few problems with in-store video monitors.
"We haven't had any complaints. We don't want to keep it blaring where people can't hear in-store announcements. The volume has to be modulated," said Weddington.
"We have only had to replace a VCR once in five years. They run continuously all day. Most of the time the big thing is just remembering to put in the loop or trailer. Employees tend to tune it out. The VCR is behind the counter and the loops are kept nearby. When the clerk realizes the tape has run out, he just has to rewind and push play, or eject and insert another. It takes a matter of seconds and you are back in business," said Boye of Angeli's.
Equipment breakdowns have not been a problem at B&R, Gettner said. The VCR has had to be replaced once or twice in most stores.
"We have had no problems except when a store director takes the equipment back to the office to use for a training video and forgets to bring it back," Decker of Goff said.