Merchandising: Retailers Look to Entice ‘Equalizer’ Fans

Sony Pictures’ The Equalizer 2 drew some serious retail attention upon its Dec. 11 home video release, with a couple of retailers offering exclusives of the movie on Blu-ray.

Best Buy Equalizer 2 Steelbook

Best Buy is well known for releasing exclusive Steelbook editions of new titles, and Equalizer 2 is no exception. The chain offered the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of the action sequel in a Steelbook case for $32.99. The Blu-ray of the first film could be had for $7.99.

Walmart offered an exclusive Blu-ray double feature of both “Equalizer” movies for $24.96.

Warner’s Smallfoot also received a Walmart exclusive, in the form of a $27.96 gift set containing the Blu-ray combo pack and a Migo Pop! keychain.

Walmart also had an exclusive Blu-ray edition of Universal’s Unbroken: Path to Redemption, featuring a collectable booklet, for $17.96.

Looking at future titles, Best Buy is touting preorders for Steelbook exclusives for several upcoming titles, including Fox’s The Predator, and Warner’s A Star Is Born and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The most notable preorder is for Sony Pictures’ Venom, which includes an offer for the digital copy that can be watched now.

Report: Netflix Most-Recommended Brand in 2018

With more than 130 million subscribers globally, including about 57 million in the United States, Netflix’s appeal would appear to supersede conventional marketing.

Indeed, a new report from tech data firm Morning Consult found Netflix bested other brands when it came to who survey respondents were most-likely to recommend to others. Overall, 74% of adults said they would be very likely to recommend the streaming service.

That word-of-mouth recommendation goes up to 77% among younger adults age 18-21 (or Gen. Z) and millennials (22-37 year-olds); and 75% among Gen. X (39-53) and 69% among baby boomers (54-74 years old).

Separately, Amazon, for the second year, rated the most-loved brand with a 78.7% favorable rating nationwide. Walmart finished as the brand most respondents (69%) said they were likely to purchase from.

The results are based on 1.5 million domestic survey interviews conducted from the first quarter through early Q4, featuring from 5,000 to 10,000 consumers 18+ queried daily.

 

 

 

Cyber Monday Projected to Set All-Time Sales Record — Despite New Tax Rules

With e-commerce booming year-round, Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), the annual winter retail event closing the Black Friday weekend, is projected to generated $7.8 billion in online sales – 18% above last year’s record tally of $6.6 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.

The figure follows record online spending on Black Friday when consumers spent $2.6 billion the day after Thanksgiving – up 24% from $2.09 billion last year.

Notably, Black Friday and Cyber Monday flourished despite the fact major retailers such as Walmart and Amazon touted online specials ahead of the annual retail event.

More importantly, online sales increased as about 30 states are in the process of implementing taxes for online purchases following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that found the state of South Dakota could force online retailers such as Wayfair and Amazon to charge sales tax even if the companies do not have a physical presence in the state.

The change meant online shoppers could expect to pay upwards 8% more for e-commerce purchases depending where they live.

“If you’re an online shopper looking to avoid paying sales taxes, that’s about to change,” said Julia La Roche with Yahoo! Finance, who added she doesn’t expect sales tax to put a damper on ecommerce going forward.

“People are still going to shop online [for the convenience],” La Roche said.

Amazon closed Nov. 26 up more than 5% at $1,581.33 per share.

Plenty of Black Friday Deals on Home Entertainment: Discs for Under $2, Digital Rentals for 99 Cents

Home entertainment content has never been cheaper — or easier to get.

Over the Black Friday holiday weekend, consumers can buy DVDs for less than $2 at Walmart. They can purchase Blu-ray Discs for less than $4 at Walmart, Target and Best Buy.

And, for those who’d rather stay home and not brave the crowds, they can rent some movies for as little as 99 cents at Redbox and Google Play, buy movies digitally for as little as $4.99 at Google Play, or purchase a broad selection of recent hits, from A Quiet Place to Sicario: Day of the Soldado, at Redbox or FandangoNOW for under $10.

At Walmart – which was open all day on Thanksgiving – Black Friday prices went into effect at 2 p.m. the day before, on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

The first taste of home entertainment in the giant retailer’s 36-page mailer comes on page 7, with a Walmart digital Vudu Card with Mission: Impossible – Fallout available for $7.96, $12 off the regular price.

On the same page, Walmart is promoting an LG “smart” Blu-ray Disc player for $49, which includes $10 in Vudu credit.

DVDs and Blu-ray Discs don’t get called out until page 11, with Walmart promising more than 110 different DVD movies for $1.96, including Ice Age: Collision Course, The Peanuts Movie and The Wizard of Oz.

Walmart also is offering more than 180 DVDs and Blu-ray Discs for $3.96, including Home Alone, Fast & Furious 8, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the live-action one, with Jim Carrey); 50 at $5.96 (including Ice Age, Justice League and the Deadpool 2 DVD); 30 at $7.96 (including the Deadpool 2 Blu-ray Disc); 50 at $8.96 and 90 at $9.96.

Walmart also is offering Xbox and PlayStation 4 games for as low as $12.

Sparse shelves at Target in Mission Viejo, Calif., Nov. 23.

Target Stores’ mailer prominently advertises the hot new video game Call Duty: Black Ops 4, which came out Oct. 12, for $45. Stores opened on Thanksgiving Day at 5 p.m., but Black Friday pricing went into effect at 6 p.m. the day before, on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

The retailer’s big “Doorbuster” is a Sony PS4 console, bundled with the new Spider-Man game and one wireless controller, for $199.99

Movies start on page 15 of the 47-page flier, with the whole top half of the page devoted to $4 DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, including Deadpool, Bad Moms, Ocean’s 8, The Greatest Showman and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (all on DVD only) as well as Blu-ray Discs of The Peanuts Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village and The LEGO Batman Movie.

A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc display at Target in Mission Viejo on Black Friday.

Target also is selling an assortment of discs for $6 (Bad Moms, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Peter Rabbit, Paddington 2, all on Blu-ray Disc), as well as another batch at $9 (including 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions of Deadpool, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Pacific Rim).

Also available at Target come 5 p.m. Nov. 22 are $10 season sets of TV series like “The Walking Head,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Supernatural” and “Westworld.”

At Best Buy, stores also opened on Thanksgiving Day at 5 p.m. and, like Target, Black Friday prices have been in effect since Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.

Right on page one of the retailer’s 52-page mailer is an ad for $6.99 Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo packs of Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Coco and Deadpool 2. “These Deals are Blockbusters,” the headline reads.

Inside are ads for games at $19.99 to $29.99 and $14.99 and under.

Hot new releases Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fallout 76 are not discounted ($59.99), but come with collectible freebies: a collapsible cup for Red Dead Redemption and a Vault Boy keychain for Fallout 76.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is available for $44.99, a penny less than at Target,

Best Buy also is advertising 55 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles at $14.99 each, including Ant-Man and The Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Coco, Black Panther and Skycraper.

On the next pages are 75 Blu-ray Discs at $3.99 each, including Wonder Woman, Jurassic World, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and Kingsman: The Secret Service; 70 at $5.99, including Ready Player One, It, Tag, The Darkest Minds, and Dunkirk; 50 at $7.99, including The Death of Superman, Overboard, Deadpool 2 and Uncle Drew; and 35 at $9.99, including Justice League, Jumani: Welcome to the Jungle, and Sicario: Day of the Soldado.

Best Buy also is selling more than 20 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles at $7.99 each, including John Wick, American Assassin, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Digital retailers are offering movie deals this holiday weekend, as well.

Google Play offered 99 cent rentals on Thanksgiving Day, including such recent releases as Crazy Rich Asians and Incredibles 2, giving consumers something to watch while they enjoy their turkey coma.

It has also slashed prices on digital purchases to as low as $4.99. Among the movies consumers can buy for less than $5 are The Maze RunnerWrath of the TitansNow You See MeEscape Plan 2A Prayer Before Dawnand Independence Day: Resurgence.

Other “limited time Cyber Week deals” include various recent hit movies for $9.99, including Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (regular price, $14.99), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($21.99) and Deadpool 2 ($19.99).

Google Play also is offering access to Starz for $5 a month for three months (the regular price is $8.99 per month).

Redbox is offering deals on numerous digital purchases, including such recent releases as A Quiet Place (cut to $7.99 from $14.99), Sicario: Day of the Soldado (at $9.99 from $18.99), Rampage (at $9.99 from $19.99) and Uncle Drew (at $9.99 from $14.99). The rental kiosk company is also offering deals on used discs based on location.

FandangoNow, the on-demand service owned by Fandango, is offering special deals on digital purchases as well, with such new releases as Deadpool 2RampageA Quiet PlaceDaddy’s Home 2 and Ready Player Oneat under $10.

FandangoNow also is offering consumers $8 toward a movie ticket for every $20 they buy on digital purchases or streams.

For consumers who’d rather stream than buy, both Redbox and Google Play are offering 99-cent rentals throughout the holiday weekend.

At Redbox, the selection includes The Other Woman, Playing It Cool, The Girl Next Door and Cast Away.

At Google, 99-cent rentals include a wealth of current hits, including Crazy Rich Asians, The Meg, Incredibles 2, Mile 22, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Walmart Offering Earlier Deals, Snacks, Maps for Black Friday Shopping

Walmart Nov. 8 announced Black Friday deals along with plans to start the deals on Walmart.com at 10 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 21, two hours earlier, among other shopping enhancements.

Walmart.com has more than a dozen Black Friday deals available now, including a Sharp 55-inch 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart LED TV at $299; a Sharp 50-inch 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart LED TV at $249; and a RCA 65-inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV at $399.

Nov. 22, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time, the retailer will launch “Light Up Black Friday” parties for customers, giving away 4 million cups of complimentary coffee courtesy of Keurig and nearly 2 million free Christmas cookies from the Walmart Bakery, according to the retailer.

At 6 p.m. local time, the in-store event begins with new tools for shopping, including enhanced Black Friday store maps in the Walmart app and “Check Out With Me” associates. The app’s store map feature will transition to a Black Friday version from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Shoppers can browse the Black Friday circular on the app, select an item and its location will appear on the Black Friday store map. The Black Friday store map will also include pins that direct shoppers to the top eight Black Friday deals. Key departments, such as toys, electronics, home and apparel, will once again be color coded in the Black Friday event circular, in the app store map and on printed maps distributed in stores, as well as in stores on event night with balloons, signs and associates in colored vests. “Check Out With Me” associates — identifiable with a yellow sash — will be placed in key areas of the store.

“There really is no bigger or better day of the year than Black Friday; that’s why we are pulling out all the stops to make it a great night for our customers,” said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. “We’re more confident than ever that our customers will find incredible prices on everything on their holiday wish list at Walmart. And with deep availability of these items in our stores and new features like color-coded Black Friday Store Maps in the Walmart app and Check Out With Me, as well as earlier access to the deals online, it’s never been easier for customers to shop – and save – at Walmart on Black Friday.”

Among the Black Friday deals are the PS4 1TB Slim Spider-Man Bundle ($199); the Sharp/TCL 65-inche Class 4K Roku Smart TV ($398); the Hisense 40-inch Class 1080p TV ($99); and the Xbox ONE S 1TB Minecraft Creators Bundle ($199). The retailer will also offer hundreds of disc titles at prices from $1.96 to $9.96 each.

Walmart Working with Former Studio Chief Nancy Tellem in New Joint Venture

Walmart desperately wants to bridge the entertainment and e-commerce divide with Amazon.

The world’s largest retailer Oct. 11 announced a strategic entertainment joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video technology. The pact includes plans to develop original, interactive content that Walmart claims will help it connect with customers in “new and more meaningful ways,” with the goal of driving deeper and more frequent engagement.

The content, which could range from cooking shows to interactive toy catalogues, will go beyond the basic personalization available today, allowing viewers to participate in and shape stories as they are being told, according to Walmart.

The joint venture – dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures – expands Walmart’s entertainment ecosystem. The retailer already has a longstanding physical and digital video presence, through stores, websites, the digital platform Vudu.com and the recently launched eBook platform, Walmart eBooks, with Rakuten Kobo.

“Our partnership with Eko will help us accelerate efforts to deepen relationships with customers and connect with new audiences in innovative ways and is one part of an overall entertainment ecosystem we’re building,” Scott McCall, SVP of entertainment, toys and seasonal, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

Since 2010, Eko has pioneered the future of entertainment, alongside partners like Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios. Eko has received prior funding from Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Warner Music Group, Samsung, Walmart, and others, and has more than 15 patents for its technology. In connection with the joint venture, Walmart has agreed to participate in Eko’s next funding round.

“The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life,” said Yoni Bloch, CEO of Eko. “In 2018, all forms of media are personalized except for live action video.

The partnership will be led by Bloch, with input from several industry experts. Tribeca Productions co-founder Jane Rosenthal will serve as strategic advisor. Rosenthal, producer of films such as Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, About a Boy (film and series), Wag the Dog and the upcoming Scorsese film The Irishman, helps create a bridge for both established and emerging artists looking for an outlet for their work.

Nancy Tellem, chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko, will serve on the board of the joint venture. Prior to joining Eko, Tellem spent more than 25 years in television including time as president of CBS Network Television Group.

Tellem most-recently spearheaded Microsoft’s short-lived attempt at creating original TV shows and movies at shuttered Xbox Entertainment Studios.

“During my career in broadcast television, I’ve seen how traditional media has been transformed by technology and have long believed that technology would be the key to creating more engaging entertainment experiences,” said Tellem. “Audiences are hungry for immersive entertainment, and storytellers are embracing this new technology in creating a new type of story narrative that deeply engages the viewer. Now is the time for Eko and interactive content to take center stage.”

Costco Considered Free SVOD Service for Executive Members

Taking a page out of the Amazon Prime Video playbook, Costco Wholesale has reportedly considered launching an over-the-top video service for its premiere membership customers.

The service, which would have partnered with an existing OTT video platform to reduce costs, aimed to mirror Prime Video offering Prime members free access to myriad catalog TV shows and movies, in addition to original content.

Costco is the country’s fourth largest retailer and remains a significant seller of Hollywood DVDs and Blu-ray Disc titles. It sought to include the streaming service with its executive $120 annual membership, which includes 2% back on purchases. Costco also offers a $60 “gold star” membership.

Negotiations reportedly broke down with a potential OTT video partner over financial terms, according to The-Information.com, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

“We currently have no intention of offering a streaming service to members,” Paul Latham, SVP, membership marketing services at Costco, told the website.

The retailer earlier this year aligned with MoviePass selling the theatrical ticket subscription service at a discounted $89.99 annual price. The purchase included membership to Fandor.com, which streams indie and catalog movies.

 

 

 

 

Vudu Inks Deal for MGM Original Programming

Walmart-owned Vudu.com reportedly signed a deal with MGM Studios for original content to be made available on the transactional VOD platform’s ad-supported “Movies on Us” service.

The deal includes exclusive North American access to original episodic series based on MGM intellectual property.

“We feel it will be a great source of family-friendly, advertiser-friendly content – which won’t be viewable anywhere else,” Scott Blanksteen, Vudu’s VP of product and ad-supported VOD, told Variety, which first reported the deal.

While media reports have suggested Walmart is dipping its toes into subscription video-on-demand distribution, Blanksteen said the MGM deal is not about SVOD, but rather ad-supported OTT video.

“I wouldn’t rule that out for the future, but there are no concrete plans or discussions for that now,” he said.

Launched in 2016, “Movies on Us” features a catalog of more than 7,000 catalog TV shows and movies free (with a Vudu account) to stream with commercials. Content providers include Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Anchor Bay Entertainment.

The platform mirrors a growing number of ad-supported OTT video services such as The Roku Channel, Shout! Factory TV and Sony Crackle.

Vudu, which offers more than 180,000 studio movies to buy and rent, is also testing targeted advertising and direct-to-consumer ecommerce.

With Walmart actively promoting ecommerce in an attempt to better compete with Amazon, Vudu is testing direct shopping links as well as product information requests.

“Walmart tends to be a crawl-walk-run company,” Blanksteen said. “We feel like we are driving in the direction of building a great, on-demand network.”

Walmart Ups Collectibles Market Presence

Walmart is entering the lucrative collectibles market by partnering with niche merchandise providers. The retail behemoth is rolling out dedicated collectibles sections selling movie, TV show and pop culture-themed merchandise, bobbleheads, T-shirts and posters in the entertainment department of more than 3,500 stores, starting Oct. 15.

“Pop culture fans are passionate about their fandoms and look for ways to incorporate it into all aspects of their life,” Brent Duwe, senior buying manager at Walmart, said in a statement. “We’re introducing a new assortment to serve fans in a way we haven’t before.”

The world’s largest retailer is partnering with Loot Crate, Funko Fanatics, McFarlane Toys and CultureFly, among others, featuring top movie, TV and game franchises reimagined as limited-edition collectibles.

Walmart will be the exclusive brick-and-mortar retail home for Loot Crate fan subscription boxes. Customers have their choice of six different boxes, all around a unique theme such as “Best of the 80s,” “Space Out,” “Merc with a Mouth,” “Not of this World,” “Gaming Treasures,” or “Gaming Legends”.

“[We] creatively collaborate with top licenses to deliver collectibles that are unique, and something that super-fans could only find at fan conventions, but now they can [find] at Walmart stores nationwide,” said Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate.

Funko will market Funko Pop! vinyl figures at Walmart as Funkomerchandise migrates from toy stores to Walmart’s collectibles section. The retailer will feature exclusive chrome Thanos in six different colors, one for each of the Infinity Stones.

“Collectibles is a brilliant addition to the merchandise display as is evident by the millions of people that shop pop culture favorites,” said Brian Mariotti, CEO of Funko.

CultureFly markets pop-culture-themed apparel and TV show and movie boxed collectibles, including “Supernatural,” “Game of Thrones,” super hero-themed “World’s Finest: The Collection,” “Jay and Silent Bob,” and “The Nick Box” (Viacom), among others.

“I am confident that consumers will fall in love with the assortment and feel like they are walking a mini Comic-Con at their local Walmart,” said Edward Erani, co-founder of CultureFly.

NPD: Retail Websites Fighting Back Against Amazon & Co.

Amazon is the undisputed e-commerce behemoth, generating about $53 billion in revenue in its most-recent fiscal quarter — nearly five times the revenue generated by Walmart.com.

Yet, new data from The NPD Group finds 29% of U.S. online consumer electronics dollar sales were made through traditional retailer websites for the 12 months ending in June. During this timeframe, the retailer ecommerce sites gained online dollar share over third-party ecommerce (i.e. Amazon) primarily in high average sales prices (ASP) for products such as TVs, PCs, tablets, and printers.

Average online spending per purchase was four-times higher on traditional retailer websites ($233/purchase) than through pure-play online retailers ($60/purchase). However, pure play online retailers are seeing an average of five additional annual purchases, when compared to traditional retailer websites, providing more occasions to sell.

Traditional retailer websites made up 46% of online U.S. consumer electronics dollar sales for these higher ASP items, up 3% from the prior-year period. For lower ASP items they make up 13% of dollar sales, as pure play online retailers still dominate this more ‘grab and go’ segment.

“Across the retail landscape traditional retailers are finding success in bringing what they do well in store to the online channel,” Stephen Baker, VP, industry advisor for the TNP Group, said in a statement.

Baker said traditional retail is competing effectively with Amazon and others for higher-priced items by leveraging their merchandising expertise and the strong in-store product selections on their e-commerce platforms.

“This approach is clearly paying off in the CE industry, as evidenced by growing online sales across a variety of categories,” he said.