Smart Pic's Dollar General on massive install blitz

April 14, 2008 by Dave Haynes

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Travels last week prevented me from writing much, including a post on news that the Dollar General value retail chain in the US has launched a screen network.

Much has been written on a few posts about the basics of the deal, including on Screens TV. Briefly, Dollar General TV (DGTV) started rolling out last month to 500 stores in 13 markets. There are plans to be in 4,200 sites by September and all of the retailer’s 8,300 stores by Q1 2009. Once the full rollout by SmartPic Advertising is complete, Dollar General hopes to reach about 100 million viewers each month.

The whole thing is being run by Sarasota, Florida-based SmartPic Advertising. The inevitable “Who???” question that follows is one of the two big reasons this deal is getting attention … the other being the sheer scale of the rollout and network.

I spoke with CEO Jim Elliott who first explained Dollar General is not at all like what we call Loonie stores up here in the frozen tundra. While most stores who sell everything for a buck are filled to the rafters with suspect knock-off stuff that comes by the shipload from China and South Asia, Dollar General moves major brand goods and undoubtedly gets very good volume-pricing.

“You walk into a Dollar General, you think, “Small Wal-Mart,” explained Elliott.

Only about 30 per cent of the merchandise is priced at less than a buck, and these stores have things like coolers.

SmartPic is making the investment into this network and will generate revenues by brand advertising. There are more than 60 people in the company and they are very active already in the chain drug industry. He said Dollar General is the one dollar store chain his company will install into, explaining the “other ones don’t fit.”

Elliott intends to have 2,100 stores installed by the end of May, which is a staggeringly fast install pace. They are keeping costs down by using smaller screens and their own media player and in-house software, the latter robust enough to do the distribution job SmartPic needs.

This is interesting on a whole bunch of levels. This install is going from zero to one of the biggest retail screen networks anywhere. It’s targeting a massive value-oriented audience at just the right time (recession), and in areas (urban and rural) that aren’t getting targeted by screen network operators. And with a limited number of screens per location, SmartPic is taking a very different approach in reaching audiences.

One to watch.

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