SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Animated movies are a lively bunch at supermarkets, thanks to advanced technology and classic titles.
At Martin's Super Markets here, Laura Fisher, video coordinator, said technologically advanced cartoons like "Toy Story" and the highly anticipated November release of "Shrek" have been driving profits.
"The new way they are doing animation is selling itself," she said, noting that she plans to carry 10 copies of "Shrek" for rental at each store this year.
She said Disney favorites like "The Little Mermaid" are top sellers at Martin's, which stocks between 200 and 250 animated titles in the children's video section. Although only five stores have rental sections, all 18 units merchandise sell-through products. Restoring timeless 'toons like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" has also sketched out new opportunities for the category, she said.
Disney recently made available a two-disc DVD version of the 1937 classic as part of its Platinum Collection, and the studio said 1 million DVD units were sold on the first day it hit retail shelves earlier this month.
"A lot of consumers have been waiting for Snow White to come out on DVD," Fisher told SN.
She said she did not have specific sales figures from Martin's for the first day of its release, but she said the DVD has been "selling well."
Overall, sell-through animated titles usually turn better than rentals, according to Fisher.
"With animation, it's like keeping your kids busy," she said. "They like to watch the [movies] over and over again, and the price on sell-through makes it more economical to buy."
However, Brenda Vanover, director of video operations, K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., said that since the terrorist attacks and rash of anthrax scares recently, the rental of animated titles has increased.
"People want to stay home and rent," she said. "There's so much product out there that parents are renting instead of purchasing."
One segment of the animation genre that has been growing strongly in the market in general -- although not in supermarkets -- is Japanese animation, or "anime." While the imports cover all genres, many of the titles are not suitable for children and might not fit into the family-friendly image supermarkets seek to put forth.
Vanover said she tested DVD anime sell-through, but customers weren't interested.
"Until we get requests, we're not bringing them in," she said.
Bill Bryant, vice president of sales, grocery and drug, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn., said potential for growth for anime was limited for food retailers.
"Anime, although growing, continues to appeal to a very select group of consumers, and most do not view supermarkets as a destination for this type of product," he said.
Richard Goffman, director of marketing and sales, Central Park Media, New York, said anime has a devoted following of fans.
"Word gets around for those [retailers] who have it, and it becomes a destination for those who like [anime]," he said.
Children's anime titles like "Night on the Galactic Railroad" and the "Slayers" series are alternatives to the Disney product juggernaut, he suggested.
Bryant said animated movies need good positioning in high-traffic areas of the store to increase sales of sell-through releases, and placing sufficient quantities of animated new releases in the new release rental section will improve turns and give each title appropriate attention.