Preparing the video department of a supermarket for the upcoming Halloween season is a lot like carving a jack-o'-lantern. The more planning that is done ahead of time, the better the end results are likely to be.
At least, that's the approach that grocers polled by SN seem to be taking.
"I've been working on Halloween since late June," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz.
Many supermarkets craft special displays and promotions to encourage impulse purchases of video and DVD for the Halloween season, and some also extend the special preparations to their rental departments.
At Martin's Supermarkets, South Bend, Ind., for example, video rental supervisor Laura Fisher said the stores place 300 rental titles in a special Halloween section "so customers can find them right away."
This year, Martin's also plans to cross merchandise videos for sell-through in the candy area, capitalizing on a Warner promotion that includes an instantly redeemable coupon for up to $2 off the price of candy with the purchase of a $14.95 or $14.98 VHS title, or any DVD.
Fisher said she plans to roll out Warner's family-friendly "Ultimate Halloween Collection," which includes the all-new "Scooby-Doo's Spookiest Tales" in VHS and DVD formats and several repromoted tapes at $14.95 or $12.95, including "Gremlins," "The Goonies," "Beetlejuice" and six additional Scooby titles.
The studio will support the collection, which also includes other repriced DVDs, with a national freestanding newspaper insert touting the candy promotion, according to Ewa Martinoff, vice president of family entertainment marketing, Warner Home Video, Burbank, Calif.
Martin's video promotions comprise part of a companywide Halloween merchandising effort in which the chain stages a contest for the best-decorated store and hosts coloring contests for kids.
One video buyer from a Midwest-based chain, who asked not to be identified, said that in addition to cross merchandising video with candy, the chain's stores also decorate the video section with balloons, streamers and blow-up ghosts.
In addition, the stores do tie-ins with film and camera displays and with batteries to capitalize on flashlight use by trick-or-treaters.
For some retailers, the Halloween video merchandising season begins before the summer even ends.
"More and more retailers try to set up Halloween right before Labor Day or right after," said Gordon Ho, vice president of brand marketing, animation, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Burbank, Calif.
Jan Schreier, video manager, Prescott's Supermarkets, West Bend, Wis., has been planning for Halloween for a while, although she said she doesn't actually set up the stores until the last week of September.
She employs some creative, economical decorating ideas. Using some of the "cool" shippers sent from the studios, she cuts the designs out of them as the videos run out to decorate the store. She augments the cutouts with decorative bats, ghosts and spiders.
This year, Schreier said she plans to display five or six shippers that will include a mix of older classics like "Black Lagoon," contemporary fright flicks like "Scary Movie" and animated children's movies, including Warner's Scooby-Doo titles and some Halloween Winnie the Pooh titles from Buena Vista.
She said merchandising the displays so they are highly visible provides impetus for the sell-through of such seasonal fare.
"If I put it out there, it does well," she said. "You've got to let the customers see it."
She said she displays the shippers outside the video rental department, near the frozen and dairy cases.
Low prices also are a key driver of sell-through, according to Schreier. She likes to offer titles at under $10.
"If I get them cheap, they'll go cheap," she said.
In the rental department, Prescott's employs rental endcaps for children's Halloween titles and fright classics that represent about half of her horror selection, she said.
Some studios seem to be sympathetic to Schreier's predilection to offer low-priced sell-though product.
MGM Home Entertainment, Santa Monica, Calif., is "trying to get grocery to embrace the budget DVD category" for Halloween, according to Robert Wittenberg, executive vice president of sales. The studio is offering a collection of modern horror films on disc at $14.95, including "Stigmata," "Child's Play," "Scanners," "Species," "Phantasm" and "The Howling."
He pointed out that the lower-priced DVDs "diminish the anxiety about shrink."
Craig Hill, video specialist, Harps Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., is one retailer seeking to leverage the MGM opportunity.
"We'll be bringing in MGM DVDs for Halloween, since we've been having considerable success with budget sales," he said.