Retailer lands exclusive sales deal

Walmart has a new Easter mascot in E.B., the drum-playing bunny of Universal Pictures’ “Hop.”

Retailer has inked a deal with the studio to provide a considerable amount of shelf space to Easter-themed merchandise tied to the family film.

Starting today, Walmart has the exclusive rights to sell more than 100 licensed products related to “Hop,” including candy, toys and apparel, at the company’s 3,000 stores nationwide. Themed areas, including a “Candy Factory,” will enable customers to build their own Easter baskets with “Hop” merchandise.

“This is the first time we’ve worked with a licensed property to brand an important seasonal event in Walmart stores,” said Gary Severson, senior VP, home entertainment, Walmart U.S.

“Hop” is the sophomore effort from Illumination Entertainment, which made “Despicable Me.” Pic jumps into theaters April 1.

The retail program is unique not just for Universal but for Hollywood as retailers usually opt not to devote major shelf space to a film unless it’s a summer tentpole. But U has long been eyeing “Hop” as a way to create a consumer-products program around a title during periods on the calendar that are less crowded and offer opportunities to tap into holidays not tied to films in the past.

Walmart has long used pairings with film properties to attract consumers into its stores. Last year, it built a boutique store within its outlets to sell a line of exclusive merchandise tied to DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon.”

Company’s plans to provide “Hop” with a major promo push should also put U’s pic in front of millions of consumers.

“Walmart’s unprecedented level of co-branded promotional support is an incredible opportunity to raise awareness for our film and allow shoppers to bring the adorable characters and ‘Hop’-themed products into their homes,” said Stephanie Sperber, president, Universal Partnerships and Licensing.

Prices for “Hop” merchandise will range from $1 to $10 and include toys, plush animals, Easter baskets, Hershey’s candy Frankford chocolates, boys and girls T-shirts from Garan and Topsville, cookie decorating kits by Create a Treat, baked goods from Keystone Bakeries and other items from Kool-Aid, Country Time Lemonade, Kraft Mac & Cheese. Walmart will also offer “Hop” videogames for the Nintendo DS, DSi and 3DS, greeting cards and children’s books.

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