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Retailers expect items to fly off the shelves



Published: Tue, November 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The movie release is expected to work magic on sales of Harry Potter toys and clothes.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- Harry Potter comes to area movie screens Friday, but he has been appearing at area stores for months.

He's on T-shirts, pencils, backpacks and lunch boxes. There are Harry Potter figures, board games and magic wands.

"I've got Harry Potter all over the store," said Bob Bowen, manager of Kmart in Boardman.

Jake Aron, manager of Kmart in Austintown, said sales of Harry Potter merchandise have been strong at his store but they should take off after "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is released in theaters Friday.

The Harry Potter novels have been a hit among children and adults in recent years. The movie, taken from the first book of the series, is expected to be a box-office smash during its opening weekend.

The Harry Potter series tells how a young British boy and his friends develop their magic skills by attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, fending off the evil Lord Voldemort along the way.

Aron said customers who like the books have asked about buying Harry Potter merchandise in recent years but have been disappointed.

"The marketing wasn't there, just the book. That was all we had at the time," he said.

A heavy shipment of a variety of Harry Potter items arrived at the store in early October.

'Monsters Inc.' selling well: Despite the anticipation of the Harry Potter movie, some local retailers said sales of merchandise from another hit children's movie, "Monsters Inc.," are stronger than Harry Potter.

Craig McCartney, manager at Wal-Mart in Boardman, said "Monsters Inc." merchandise is doing well at his store but he noted that "Monsters Inc." was released a couple of weeks ago. The Potter line has strong sales considering the movie isn't out yet, he said.

He is expecting brisk sales once moviegoers see the characters on screen.

The store is planning a promotion Saturday in which children may join in a scavenger hunt for Harry Potter-related items in the store. Children may receive a lighting bolt stamp on their foreheads, similar to the scar on Harry's forehead.

Bill Hughes, manager of Ames in Liberty, said merchandise lines from both movies are selling well there.

"Just as fast as it comes in, it's going out," he said.

Too much? One store says, however, that manufacturers have overestimated the demand for Harry Potter items.

For the first time, Big Lots, a Columbus-based closeout retailer, is offering movie merchandise before a movie comes out. Its stores were to start selling Harry Potter T-shirts today for $4.

Keri Lucas, Big Lots public relations director, said manufacturers made more shirts than retailers could handle. Although manufacturers expected runaway sales, retailers cut back on orders because of the slowing economy, she said.

Big Lots was able to buy the shirts at discounted prices, she said.

shilling@vindy.com




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