Rx new player in gaming arena

The popularity of gaming has grown, and the appeal of video games has broadened to new customer bases with such products as “Guitar Hero” and “Wii Fit.”

“Manufacturers are realizing that it’s not just teenage boys and men who are playing these games,” said Chris Ely, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association. “People are spending more time at home, and they may not be taking a trip to Disney, but they might buy a Wii. With so many options for gaming, there are games that attract families, such as ‘Family Feud.’”

With the popularity of gaming exploding, drug stores are testing the waters in the category. “With the ubiquity of gaming, it’s not surprising that drug stores would look at formulas for success that have been employed in other electronics categories to bring in some lower-priced merchandise,” Ely said.

Video game accessories are a growing business, with projected sales of $1.3 billion, according to the CEA. Ely said gaming accessories are expected to comprise 16% of all CE accessories sales this year. Drug chains are experimenting with the category.

CVS recently devoted an endcap to video games and accessories — some retailing for nearly $50. The chain stocked “Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock,” priced at $49.99, and an interactive gaming mat called Xtreme Fit for $49.99. An endcap at another store included a wireless game console under the brand name Zone 40 from MTG for $39.99, and offered a Symtek AC adaptor free with the purchase of the console. Gaming accessories from Symtek, priced at $5.99 each, or two-for-$10, were featured on a display fixture adjacent to the endcap. The accessories included a tennis racket, baseball bat and steering wheel.

Walgreens also has experimented in the category with such Wii games as “Acme Arsenal” and “Jeep Thrills,” priced at $19.99 each. The chain also stocked gaming accessories during the holidays.

While not all drug chains are willing to commit to $50 games, most find that merchandising SD cards and USB drives that can be used in gaming devices are a nice impulse product. CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid all have stocked imaging cards and USB drives from SanDisk on a promotional basis.

Even remote controls can be a nice in-and-out promotion. CVS recently stocked universal remotes ranging in price from $9.99 to $14.99 from Emerson Radio, and a football-shaped remote from Excalibur Electronics.

Audio is another area in which retailers are experimenting with higher price points. In the past, drug chains may have considered higher-priced electronic merchandise to be a gamble, but CVS is stocking some products with retail prices nearing $60 in some of its audio/video accessories sections. “Having relatively lower-price point audio players available can be a nice impulse product for retailers,” said Wendy Sept, a SanDisk spokeswoman. “Our MP3 player, SanDisk Sana Clip+ would be a great drug store addition, especially when combined with our SlotRadio cards. For under $100, consumers can walk out of the store and immediately be listening to music without ever needing a computer. It’s the candy-bar experience of immediate consumption.”

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