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Nick dents retail

One Viacom store, 5 Nickelodeons set

NEW YORK — Viacom Inc. is planning to open five Nickeleodeon-themed retail stores later this year, highlighting the entertainment conglomerate’s moves to beef up its licensing revenues by opening its own retail outlets.

The first evidence of Viacom’s new push comes Friday, when Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone formally opens the first Viacom Entertainment Store in Chicago. The 30,000-sq.-ft. store will offer 2,500 products branded with everything from MTV to Nick at Nite to “Star Trek” and Paramount.

“This is clearly unlike anything you have seen,” enthuses Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone. With several more such outlets planned in cities like New York, San Francisco and possibly Las Vegas, Redstone said the stores would help promote the company’s brands and “could also have an impact on Viacom’s bottom line” by improving licensing revenues.

The Nickeleodeon stores also on the drawing board are a spinoff of the general entertainment stores, Viacom deputy chairman Tom Dooley said. The Chicago store will “take us to a point where we can identify specific segments” that can be expanded with their own chains, he said.

“We have already discovered Nickeleodeon is a home run, and we have decided to open four to five Nickeleodeon stores in the fourth quarter of this year,” Dooley said. He said MTV stores were also a possibility. Dooley refused to comment on how much money Viacom is investing in the new Nickeleodeon stores.

Viacom is coming into a market already dominated by Walt Disney Co., which has 429 Disney stores, and Time Warner’s 161 Warner Bros. stores. Dooley said the Viacom entertainment stores would differ from their competitors by offering products “which appeal to a lot of different ages.”

Viacom could have swamped Disney and Warner Bros. by using its 5,000 Blockbuster video outlets as the base for the entertainment retailing push. But in recent weeks the company has pulled back from such a strategic shift, which was under development by Blockbuster CEO Bill Fields until his resignation last month.

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