POKE MARTS AT SEARS LATCH ONTO HOT TREND

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Sears, Roebuck & Co., seeking to regain sales momentum with tie-ins to hot trends, has latched onto one of the hottest.

Timed to coincide with the Nov. 12 release of "Pokemon: The First Movie," Sears is opening Poke Marts in all of its 855 stores nationwide, selling videogames, apparel and toys.

The retailer is working "to develop a trend-right product line we can carry that's newsworthy," said John Lebbad, director of event marketing and sales promotion for Sears. "Trends like Pokemon reinforce Sears as a fun place to shop."

As part of the two-week promotion, customers buying $25 or more in the children's department will qualify to purchase one of a series of Pokemon T-shirts packaged in a Pokeball for $7.99. Each of the four shirts feature a different set of Pokemon characters, ending with the newest character, Mew. Sears expects to sell 600,000 of the shirts.

The promotion will run Nov. 7-21, a period encompassing the opening of the movie, as well as other Pokemon product launches, such as its new Yellow videogame. The retailer also will offer Pokemon backdrops for portraits in its Sears' Portrait Studios.

Two TV spots backing the promotion show a Pokemon flying through a schoolyard, rounding up children and leading them to Sears. Targeted at kids age 6 to 13, the spots will run on Kids WB, as well as cable networks such as Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and Family Channel. Print efforts in Sunday newspaper circulars and Sears direct mail pieces also will back Poke Mart.

Y&R Advertising, Chicago, handled the advertising; Wunderman Cato Johnson did the promotion.

Sears is one in a growing group of marketers to flock to Pokemon. Others linking with the movie release include Burger King Corp., which will be offering 57 different Pokemon toys over 57 days, and Golden Books, which is using the film release as a launching pad for their Evergreen Collection of holiday videos (see related story on Page 20).

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