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Richard Simmons Rocks Somerset

24 Mar, 2006 By: Brendan Howard

For its first fitness line, Somerset Entertainment couldn't have asked for a bigger name than Richard Simmons. He's a true fitness star and a regular on radio and TV shows, and his fitness tapes and DVDs have sold an estimated 20 million units.

So, how did the mostly CD-selling Somerset nab such a big name for DVD? It was the music, said David Vasile, the company's new president of home video.

“Somerset is extremely good at music, and music is very integral to Richard's fitness programs,” he said.

The arrangement kicked off Jan. 3 with two DVDs — Richard Simmons Supersweatin': Party Off the Pounds and Richard Simmons Supertonin': Totally Tonin' — as well as eight music CDs designed for use with cardio, walking or stretching routines.

A Totally Tonin' Bonus Pack (DVD $19.99) streets this week, with two Tonin' Rings for use in the exercise routine.

Besides his big name, Simmons also is perfect for the mass market because of his appeal to experts and novices, according to Vasile.

“Whenever I sold fitness video in the past, I sold it to those who made a commitment and worked out already,” he said. “Obviously, [Simmons' videos] will enhance their fitness. But if someone has never worked out before, all Simmons' equipment and videos are really designed to activate the consumer who's never bought a fitness video.”

The titles are being sold through regular distribution channels as well as Simmons' Web site, www.richardsimmons.com. Even though Simmons has excelled in the direct-response world — remember “Deal a Meal”? — Vasile said Somerset is holding off on direct response until the next batch of titles in the fourth quarter or first-quarter 2007.

“When you release new titles through direct response, the catalog also does better,” he said. “Instead of exploring first in infomercials, then dropping it later in retail, we thought we'd have catalog stock on shelves.”

Somerset also aims for success with fitness by using the same strategy that's worked well for music, according to Vasile.

“We don't want just music in the media section,” he said. “We've been able to move it into candle departments, towels, housewares. Moms don't have the luxury sometimes of shopping for 30 minutes in electronics.”

Another marketing strategy Somerset will bring to bear on its Simmons releases are in-store interactive displays that let customers press a button and see a clip of a video before buying. Somerset is testing the displays in a traditional and a nontraditional retailer, but won't disclose the store names yet.

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