The video sell-through industry has had spring fever of a sort this year, retailers report.
"Movies were extremely well accepted, and we did better than anticipated in a couple of categories," said Gary Schloss, vice president of grocery and general merchandise at Carr Gottstein Foods, Anchorage, Alaska. "The video release of 'Babe' was tied to the Academy Awards [in April], which gave the movie extra hype and enthusiasm," he continued. "Everybody watched the awards and then ran out to buy the movie." Ambitious cross-promotions also have helped spur sales. Carr Gottstein, for instance, boosted video sales by promoting "Babe" with a plush animal continuity by Metacom, Plymouth, Minn. The promotion -- Old MacDonald's Talking Farmyard Friends -- featured toy ducks, pigs, cows, cats, puppies, roosters, ponies and lambs. The plush animals, priced at $4.99 and $6.99, were a natural tie-in with "Babe." Carr Gottstein has about 60 square feet of space devoted to video sell-through and rental in its 20 Carrs stores, but also makes additional use of shippers, according to Schloss. "Normally, video drops off in the spring and summer, since people want to be outside, but it's been better than average in both rental and sell-through, and it's continuing to grow," Schloss said. He's expecting Disney's "The Aristocats," released direct to sell-through April 24, to do well.
"Babe," an MCA/Universal release, was mentioned by most retailers as a sell-through hit.
" 'Babe' is doing wonderfully, but we were disappointed with 'Balto,' " an MCA/Universal title, said Shirley Decker, video buyer at Goff Food Stores, Haslett, Mich.
Decker said Disney's "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" is doing well this spring, along with "The Barney Talent Show" from Lyons Group and "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," from Warner Home Video. Decker has had success selling movies on the Goff's gold card program. This spring she also ran a coloring contest to create some excitement in the store. Her strategy is to keep a new movie on a shipper until about two-thirds of the shipper is sold. Then the title is moved to the rack.
"Spring is a good time for sell-through," Decker said. " We had phenomenal sell-through numbers at Easter. We were up 100% in one of my stores the week of Easter, and up 290% in another store. The year before, we were up 100%."
Decker attributes the increases to studios' increasing savvy.
"The studios are bringing in sell-through more and more. They want titles at home. Last year they had few titles at Easter," she said. "This year we had a substantial amount of sell-through for Easter, and it showed. "As long as rentals are going to take a dive, we have to make it up somewhere else," Decker added. She currently has sell-through in all five of her stores and rentals in four. Spring sell-through has done well because of increased offerings, said Bill Glaseman, video specialist at Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz.
"There were probably a few more and better movies than last year," he said. "We ran out of 'Babe' twice."
Cindy Seale, general manager at Jitney Jungle Stores of America, Jackson, Miss., also mentioned "Pocahontas," "Babe" and "Ace Ventura" as good sellers for the spring.
"The season is better than last year," she said. Bob Gettner, video buyer at Super Saver, Lincoln, Neb., said his video sales were a little better than he had expected.
"Spring is usually a slower time of year, but the good titles have had an impact," he said, mentioning "Winnie the Pooh," "Babe" and "Land Before Time III" (MCA/Universal), as strong sellers since they were released. Studios have become a little more aggressive as far as rebates go in accounting for increases, he noted. For example, customers are offered a $3 or $4 rebate on a movie, contingent on their purchasing a particular supermarket item. "Babe" did well, in part, because of the rebate program tied to it, according to Gettner.