A-B STUDIES RETAIL SALES OF BUD-LOGO MERCHANDISE

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Anheuser-Busch is exploring the retail sale of Budweiser-branded clothing and other merchandise.

The brewer is conducting focus groups where participants are shown and asked to evaluate such products as golf shirts, windbreakers, khaki slacks, signs, a miniature beer truck and glassware bearing the Bud logo, said an individual familiar with the research effort.

The participants also are asked what retail outlets they think would offer such merchandise and what would be appropriate prices.

MORE REVENUE, AWARENESS

A line of merchandise would mean new revenue and -- following the lead of Coca-Cola Co. and other marketers -- a new way to raise brand awareness. Bud needs all the help it can get: The brew has suffered a nine-year sales slump despite A-B's repeated efforts to boost it, though Budweiser remains the leading U.S. beer by far, with a 19.1% market share.

A-B's "promotional products group is considering a variety of marketing opportunities, both domestically and internationally," a spokesman said.

Earlier this month, A-B inked a deal with Bradford Licensing Associates for licensing in Europe.

A-B wouldn't be the first alcoholic beverage marketer to put clothing on department-store racks. Schieffelin & Somerset Co. this fall will introduce a line of men's sportswear featuring the logo for Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky.

The apparel initially will be offered through Bloomingdale's and get ad support via Johnnie Walker agency Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

It's not known whether Budweiser-branded merchandise would receive ad support. DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, handle advertising for the beer.

`BUD GEAR' PROMO

A-B has offered branded merchandise through the "Bud Gear" promotion that ran last year in California and this spring in the Southeast. In the promotion, consumers could redeem proofs-of-purchase for a wide array of Bud-branded paraphernalia, including coasters, coolers and pool tables.

The effort proceeded in California despite regulators' complaints that it violated laws banning giveaways tied to alcohol consumption.

The brewer showed off an array of Bud stuff at its wholesaler meeting this year, including retail kiosks on which to hang merchandise, an A-B wholesaler said.

During a focus group, participants were shown these kiosks as well as a variety of hang tags, said the individual familiar with the research.

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