NEW YORK - As the latest Harry Potter tale reaches store shelves, retailers hope to sell more than just books. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will offer Harry Potter cakes and is increasing its selection of toys and DVDs. Toys "R" Us has created Harry Potter boutiques within its stores.
But how popular these items, which are not tied to the new title, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, remains to be seen, because books generally don't move merchandise the way movies do.
"I never believed that Harry Potter in its literary form is an engine for merchandise sales," said Seth Siegel, co-owner of The Beanstalk Group, a trademark licensing group.
Another question is whether consumers will tire of Harry Potter paraphernalia, which is expected to be hyped even more when the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, reaches theaters in June 2004.
Still, observers such as Candace Corlette, a principal at WSL Strategic Ltd., a retail consultancy, say they believe this weekend's arrival of the book will "trigger an explosion in sales of all things Harry Potter." She likened the book release to a movie launch, and noted that there's a new generation of Harry Potter fans to buy products.
In fact, in anticipation of the book's arrival, eBay, the Internet auction site, created a separate Harry Potter page to help consumers find items, and reported that there are now 10,000 listings. Last weekend, a first edition of each of J.K. Rowling's first four Harry Potter books sold for a total of $5,000, officials said.
Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of the books, has commissioned a record 8.5 million-copy first printing for the latest volume.
Warner Brothers, which owns the movie and the licensing rights, purposely did not create any products tied to the new book.
"The book release creates an opportunity for stores to create a boutique environment, but the book is a clearly stand-alone as it deserves to be," said Karine Joret, spokeswoman at Warner Bros. Consumer Products.