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THE MORNING BUZZ: Counting Down To Harry Potter's Week

23 May, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

Next week, as we all know, belongs to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The diminutive English lad has invaded our shores in the form of the Warner Home Video release. It's a cultural exchange event akin to the arrival of the “Fab Four” oh-so-many years ago. Well, perhaps that's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

Dare I say this now, but we may be seeing the beginning of a run which could unseat the reigning king of video sellthrough, Paramount Home Entertainment's Titanic, which shipped a reported 30 million units on home video. Harry did just fine in his own country, generating sales of 1.25 million units in the video's first day at retail, a new record.

Several factors could play into Warner's hands. Perhaps the most significant is the greater emphasis now on retailers in driving preorders. Virtually every major mass-merchant retailer made an in-store and/or online offer for customers to reserve their copies of Harry Potter, beginning at the sounding bell of the presale period.

Many of these were accompanied by special offers beyond price discounts. Wal-Mart offered presales of the video at $19.95 through its Wal-Mart.com Web site and threw in free shipping (same day or following day guaranteed) and a child's movie pass to the upcoming Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Last I spoke with Wal-Mart's people, Harry had surpassed Shrek as that chain's most successful presales home video ever. Amazon.com just reported that Harry Potter set a pre-order record with more than 100,000 copies sold in the U.S.

Toys “R” Us had an exclusive Harry Potter trading card it offered to presale customers when they came to pick up the video. At Best Buy you could shell out $5 to get a special CD-ROM that previewed the upcoming Harry Potter video game among other things and then present that receipt for a $5 discount off the Harry Potter home video. Barnes & Noble and Wherehouse both had posters for presale customers. And of course the major rentailers have been marketing the previously viewed Harry Potter video option well before street date.

The preorder effect on sales of major home videos is having a greater and greater impact. Not only are retailers pushing the concept, but customers are clearly buying into it as a convenience and a discount. The results are certainly showing in first-day sales records.

I was surprised, frankly, given that it is a “family” title, at the number of stores reporting they would be staying open or reopening at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday to let customers get their hands on Harry Potter as soon as possible. Perhaps the presales focus is going to be responsible for driving moms, dads and kids to line up at midnight to get their hands on Harry Potter.

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