The multimedia format for games and other software used on personal computers has yet to take off as either a rental or a sell-through item, retailers told SN. But as sales of computers equipped with CD-ROM drives continue to increase the installed base nationally, retailers have not given up hope that these products may eventually become a significant part of their entertainment software offerings.
"We are starting with CD-ROM," said Jamie Molitor, director of video operations at Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo. "I don't see much action in rental, but we are starting to see some sell-through on it," she said.
"It seems like we've always had CD-ROM on the tip of our tongue," said Rick Ang, buyer for Video Mart, Sacramento, Calif., which racks video departments in 17 Bel Air Supermarkets in the Sacramento area. "It's part of every discussion and it's always been in the back of our minds. But it still is something that we haven't gotten into for sales or rental yet," he said.
"At this time, we don't carry CD-ROM games, but if we build a new store with a larger department, that could happen," said Trish Smilie, customer service/video manager at Steele's Markets, Fort Collins, Colo.
''My ultimate goal is to have more CD-ROM titles," said Denise Darnell, video supervisor for Southeast Foods, Monroe, La. But in Southeast's rural markets, technology tends to advance slowly, she noted. "It is not going to be something that we pick up on real quickly," she said.
Clifford Feiock, video coordinator at Nash Finch Co., Minneapolis, has been looking for a good program with "hybrid" CD-ROM products. That is, CD-ROMs that will run on both Windows and Macintosh computers. "I see that as a great opportunity," he said. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of that out there, but hopefully some of the suppliers will put something together for us in the near future," he said.
Demand for hybrid CD-ROMs will build as customers become aware that they can get them at Nash Finch's stores, he said. "If we offer CD-ROMs in a hybrid format, we are going to appeal to a much broader market. We are limiting ourselves by just offering it in a Windows version, because there are a lot of Macintosh computers out there too," said Feiock.
Feiock sees the potential in supermarkets mainly in budget and closeout lines presented for sell-through.
"I've tried a few tests of budget CD-ROM sales, trying to find where a computer-oriented market is," said Randy Weddington, video specialist for Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark. "So far I haven't found it promising enough to get into CD-ROM rentals. It's something I still hope to get into later this year." Harps tested the CD-ROM in its most upscale stores on the assumption that customers there would be more likely to want CD-ROMs, "but it didn't work," said Weddington.
"CD-ROM is still clicking away and it is still a very viable business," said David Balfour, multimedia marketing manager for Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "But it's still a niche business, because you only have a limited amount of vendors who will allow their products to be rented. But the retailers that have been in the CD-ROM business have been successful with it, and they continue to be in the business," he said.
Budget-priced lines offered for sale in supermarkets have done well, Balfour said. These are mostly products for Windows computers, he said. Hybrid budget CD-ROMs, like the ones Feiock is looking for, are hard to come by, although there are some available in the children's and family categories, he said.
"The budget CD-ROM is a mass- market item, not unsimilar to magazines and greeting cards. So you don't necessarily have to merchandise budget CD-ROMs with your games or even with your videos," said Balfour.
The coming upgrade to DVD-ROMs -- 5-inch discs for computers using the new digital video disk technology -- is not hindering interest in CD-ROMs at this time, he said. "If anything, it is a complement. I don't think we are anywhere near obsolescence of CD-ROM."
DVD-ROM products at first will mostly be CD-ROM "port-overs," he said. "If a CD-ROM game were on seven CD-ROM discs, it could fit on one DVD-ROM disc. DVD-ROM will just give consumers another reason to use their computers, and both platforms will benefit from that," Balfour said.