Harry Potter merchandise
Paul Sancya  /  AP file
Julia DeRogatis, 11 left, and her sister Andi DeRogatis, 13, both of Goleta, Calif., view Harry Potter merchandise with their cousin Claire McCarthy, 12, of Walled Lake, Mich., at a Borders store in Novi, Mich., June 28, 2007.
By Allison Linn Senior writer
updated 7/16/2007 8:41:24 PM ET 2007-07-17T00:41:24

When the final installment of Harry Potter’s boy-wizard saga finally hits store shelves at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, you can expect stores like Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart to pull out all the stops in the pursuit of sales.

But what about your local grocery store?

As Harry Potter mania hits a fever pitch, it’s not just booksellers that are rushing to take advantage of the phenomenon. Retailers ranging from grocers to drug stores also will be hawking copies of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Meanwhile, stores that have come to expect major sales of the popular Harry Potter books also are stocking up on everything from candy to board games featuring the popular franchise.

The push isn’t surprising, considering what’s at stake. Nielsen BookScan estimates that 27.7 million Harry Potter books have been sold in the United States since 2001, while Nielsen SoundScan estimates that 1.1 million soundtracks from Harry Potter movies have been sold domestically. Harry Potter-themed cookies, candy and gum products alone have raked in $11.8 million in the U.S. since 2002, Nielsen reports.

This is also somewhat of a last shot for many retailers _ while two more movies are expected, the hugely popular book series ends with this seventh release, and there’s no clear heir apparent in the book industry.

Harry Potter fever
“Yes, we have Harry Potter fever as well,” said Meghan Glynn, spokeswoman for The Kroger Co., whose store brands include King Soopers, Ralphs, QFC and Fred Meyer.

The grocery store chain will be selling early Saturday at some of its 24-hour store locations. The stores also will be selling Potter-themed cakes, balloons and other items, and officials are banking on regular shoppers to pick up the book along with a quart of milk or a bag of lettuce.

Glynn said the hope is that customers will think, “Oh, yeah, maybe Kroger will have it, and I’ve got to do my shopping anyhow.”

Drugstore chain Walgreen Co. has been offering heavily discounted pre-orders for the latest book on its Web site and plans to stock the book at a higher price point in some of its stores. But spokeswoman Carol Hively said the chain will sell books only while supplies last because the company did not receive as many copies as it had hoped.

Walgreens is hoping its urban locations will appeal to younger customers who can walk to the corner drugstore to pick up the final Harry Potter installment.

“There’s definitely a lot of interest, and they’re definitely big sellers,” Hively said.

Toys “R” Us, which is expecting an onslaught of book buyers, also will carry a Harry Potter video game and a wide selection of the quirky candies favored by the book’s wizard characters. The toy seller’s Web site also features items such as a wizard hat piñata, Harry Potter scarf and Hogwarts wall banner.

“We’re basically giving (customers) a good variety of stuff that really kind of lets kids step into the Harry Potter lifestyle,” said Bob Friedland, public relations manager for the chain.

Wal-Mart is hosting 2,900 launch parties Friday night in anticipation of the book’s release. Ahead of the launch, the company also has been offering a Harry Potter-themed board game, a video game and cut-rate copies of the previous Harry Potter movies. Wal-Mart also will offer  hefty discounts on the older books in the Potter series, as well as other Potter-themed merchandise and food.

The promotions go beyond what Wal-Mart has done with previous releases.

“This entire last month of July has been very focused on Harry Potter,” spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien said.

While few want to miss out on Potter mania, it’s not clear how profitable the franchise will be for retailers. Online bookseller Amazon.com Inc. has taken more than 1 million pre-orders of the latest book, but at its significantly discounted price the company has warned it doesn’t expect to make a profit off those sales.

Many retailers are offering similar deals, although Wal-Mart and others declined provide details on their profitability expectations.

“At Wal-Mart, everything we do is centered on saving the customer money, so we already have built in our system delivering the best value for customers that we can provide,” said O’Brien, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman.

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