SEARS PHOTO STUDIOS EXPAND TIES WITH KIDS VIDEO MAKER: MAILING TO INCLUDE OFFER FROM KIDEO PRODUCTIONS

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Hoping to continue traffic growth to its portrait studios, Sears, Roebuck & Co. is strengthening its partnership with a maker of children's videos.

Kideo Productions first inserted materials into the Sears Portrait Studio package two years ago in an effort to attract parents to its personalized video using a child's photo. But now the retail giant is taking that relationship a step further.

REACHING BIRTHDAY CLUB

This month, a Kideo offer will be included in mailings to Sears' Birthday Club members. That follows a late 1996 tie-in in which a trailer for the retailer was added to videos and Sears studio promotional materials were sent with Kideo mailings.

Sears, which is spending more than $95 million remodeling its studios and adding new technologies, experienced years of declining profits in that arena due to strong competition.

That's turning around, however, with Sears' total sittings up to 5.5 million in 1996 from slightly more than 5.1 million the previous year.

Competitors have experienced softness as well. Last week, Kmart Corp. announced it will close 415 of its portrait studios as part of a restructuring plan.

EXPANDING INTO NEW FORMAT

"Sears is interested in the expansion of an existing product-the professional photograph-into another format," said Steve Glickman, VP-marketing at CPI Inc., which operates the studios for Sears.

Kideo launched its first ad campaign, spending an estimated $2 million via Abacab Productions, Los Angeles, for its "Gregory & Me!" series late last month.

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