NICKELODEON CHANNELS INTO RETAIL WITH 3 STORES: OUTLETS TO CARRY EVER-CHANGING ARRAY OF PRODUCTS

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Viacom Retail Group this week opens its first three Nickelodeon outlets, backing the launch with regional ads that link the store experience to the kid-oriented cable network.

"It's really an extension of the network and captures the complete world of Nickelodeon," said Tom Haas, president of Viacom Retail Group.

A TV commercial breaking this week, from DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas, attempts to illustrate this idea by showing a kid entering the store through a TV set. The spot will air on Nickelodeon affiliates in the three markets where the stores are being opened: Chicago; Long Island, N.Y.; and Minneapolis.

Viacom Retail Group also plans mall promotions and local activities with charities that will last through the holiday season.

BRINGING BRAND TO LIFE

The stores aspire to bring Nickelodeon to life through the atmosphere and product mix. Stores are painted green, orange and purple. Costumed characters roam the aisles, and employees cater first to kids.

Interactive elements allow customers to make stickers, while a kid-only "Hideout Hut" houses a large screen TV that can entertain children while parents shop.

The stores are stocked with merchandise based on every Nickelodeon program. Mr. Haas said the stores will be used to test new lines of product that can be licensed to companies should they prove popular.

CHANGING INVENTORY

While its rivals can depend on long-established or proven brands, the Nickelodeon store will be constantly changing its entire product mix depending on which shows are currently airing.

Mr. Haas said he prefers to be "deliberately vague" about the number of Nickelodeon stores that will open next year. He did say that Viacom Retail Group

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