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Retailers Go All Out for 'Harry Potter'

26 May, 2002 By: Jessica Wolf

While national retailers whipped up a veritable frenzy of events and promotions for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone's May 28 North American video debut, street date violations stole thunder from some independent retailers.

Warner couldn't be happier with the overwhelming support from retail, said Trevor Drinkwater, SVP of domestic sales.

Midnight Madness
Retail outlets across the country planned to stay open late or open early to ring in the first minutes of Harry Potter's Tuesday debut.

Borders Books outlets across the country planned activities, including afterschool activities on street date and trivia contests, said Lita Weissman, Los Angeles area marketing manager for the chain.

Select Blockbuster sites nationwide planned to open at 12:01 Tuesday morning with guaranteed rentals on the title and offered its "Rent It! Like It! Buy It!" deal. Anyone who rents Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone can bring in the rental receipt and get a previously viewed copy for $9.99. And, if customers find the title advertised for less than they can get it at Blockbuster, the chain promises to match the price.

Hartford, Conn.-area Media Play stores launched "Midnight Madness" celebrations and early-morning "Potter Parties" Tuesday, with games, contests, prizes and giveaways for the eager customers.

"Without exception, retailers have viewed this title as a way to bring the excitement of video to their customers," Warner's Drinkwater said.

Wizard Tempts Early Sellers
At least one retail chain, Black Mountain, N.C.-based Ingles Markets, wasn't shy about unleashing the excitement up to 10 days early.

Ingles corporate executives did not return calls seeking a comment, but employees a random sample of the chain's 207 stores in four states admitted selling the video as early as May 18. Some stores reported having sold through their first allotments and restocked by May 23.

"We started selling them this week. I believe Ingles has some kind of deal that says it's supposed to be out on May 28 but I have a boss [at headquarters] that says we're supposed to start selling them this week," said the customer service manager at one South Carolina store.

"We have both [rental and sellthrough], but you have to ask the person behind the counter to get them because they aren't supposed to be out there," said a video clerk at an Ingles in Tennessee. "We got in trouble for it."

A Warner spokesperson could not be reached for comment on what sort of penalty the grocer might face.

"We have contacted their main category manager, Tony Federico, and told them we are not pleased with their apparently violating street date," said distributor David Ingram, whose business handles the Ingles account. "The result, if Ingles continues to break street date, will be that we will not be able to ship to them early. The whole situation is very unfortunate."

Todd Zaganiacz, owner of South Deerfield, Mass.-based Video Zone and president of the New England Buying Group, said the potential for street-date violations was one reason most retailers in his 43-store cooperative had no plans for street date promotions.

"If you're planning a big opening and someone breaks street date on Friday, it's going to be a waste," he said.

Preorder Magic
The Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone DVD is the biggest preorder in Amazon.com's history, with 100,000 units preordered.

Wal-mart.com confirmed Harry had surpassed Shrek as the title with the most online presales ever for the retailer.

Pretty much every retail outlet got into the Harry Potter preorder act, whether they took preorders at stores or via Web sites offering special deals - with-purchase: Barnes & Noble and Wherehouse locations gave away posters; Amazon.com offered a sneak peek at a deleted scene; Wal-Mart.com offered a free child's movie pass or $6.50 off an adult ticket when customers preordered Harry Potter along another Warner family title; Toys 'R' Us gave away exclusive trading cards with preorders; and Tower offered a free sticker set for in-store and online presales.

Additional reporting by Enrique Rivero, Holly J. Wagner, Joan Villa and Kurt Indvik.<

Have you seen street date violations for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? What about other recent titles? Snitch here!

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