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Jackson Death a Boon for Trans World, Retail

6 Jul, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The sudden death of Michael Jackson has prompted a surge in sales of the pop icon’s music CDs and DVDs at Trans World Entertainment Corp. and other music retailers.

Albany, N.Y.-based Trans World — parent of the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) retail chain — is among a shrinking base of music-centric retailers that have seen sales unexpectedly soar meteorically since Jackson’s death June 25.
Demand for Jackson catalog CD albums, posters and music DVDs, underscored by 24/7 news reports on the singer’s cause of death, lifestyle and business empire, has prompted an impressive run on product by longtime and new fans, said COO Jim Litwak.
“It’s triple-digit [sales growth],” he said.
Sales of “Thriller,” the top selling music album of all-time, increased 422,000 units for the week ended June 28, compared to 10,000 units the previous week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Jackson albums sold 110,000 units in the first hours after his death, according to Billboard.
The trade publication said Trans World, Best Buy Co., Apple iTunes, Starbucks, Borders and Target, among others, control about 60% of all album sales in the United States.
Litwak said the retailer was buying Jackson product, including related and “appropriate” non-music items, and positioning it in key locations throughout its 700-plus stores.
“Clearly, he was a remarkable talent and loved by many fans,” the COO said. “And they want to be able to acquire a lot of his product.”
Litwak said he expects interest in Jackson product to last indefinitely. He said rehearsal footage from Jackson’s sold out London concert venue would likely be forthcoming in addition to new compilation, re-mixes and public memorial July 7.
“That will continue the consumer awareness,” Litwak said.
Ralph Tribbey, editor of The DVD Release Report, an industry tip sheet, said there exist several unauthorized Jackson biographies released on DVD, in addition to video compilations.
Tribbey said it wouldn’t be a stretch to see re-releases of Sony BMG music DVDs Dangerous: The Short Films, Michael Jackson: HIStory (both 2001), Michael Jackson: The One (2004) and Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest (2005).
“Unless there is something preventing them from legally re-issuing this stuff, they would be nuts not to be out there promoting it,” Tribbey said. “It’s like found money.”
Jackson’s death is the latest salvo for Trans World, which has seen its stock rise 60% to $1.29 per share since March. The retailer lost $11.8 million in the most recent quarter on sales of $191 million.Analyst Edward Woo with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles said it was too early to determine whether the stock price rebound reflected a real change in business or just a temporary surge.
“I think the Michael Jackson boost can run several months on top of another boost this holiday season,” Woo said. “The boost will help Trans World results this quarter, but I don't think it’s enough to turn things around completely. They still have lots of challenges, including long-term decline in music sales and difficulties right now with DVD and video games.”


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