February 1, 2004
Not-So-Sweet Reflections on a Valentine’s Day Retail Experience
It was a sad day for many Chicago candy lovers last month when the news broke that the city’s 228 Fannie May candy retail stores — and the plant where the candy is made — would be closing their doors. And it was an even bleaker day, of course, for the hundreds of manufacturing and retail employees who are losing their jobs as a result. Ironically, according to news reports, all of the stores are to be shuttered by Feb. 15, the day after that sweetest of candy holidays, Valentine’s Day.
At the risk of ragging on a retailer when it’s down and out, I’d like to share an unfortunate experience I had as a Fannie May store patron. My tale goes back to slightly more than a decade ago when I breezed complacently into my neighborhood Fannie May shop shortly before Valentine’s Day with the goal of purchasing my husband’s favorite sweet treat. The woman behind the counter informed me that the truffles I wanted were sold out, and, in the future, I really ought to plan on shopping earlier. The out-of-stock situation was understandable. And the clerk was right, too. I should have shopped earlier. Nonetheless, the reprimand was unwelcome!
Honestly, I never made it a point to consciously boycott Fannie May after that experience. But let’s just say that as years passed and alternative retail venues presented themselves, I opted more and more frequently to make my candy purchases at retailers other than Fannie May. Perhaps it’s a teeny bit mean-spirited of me to share this story at this low point in Fannie May’s illustrious retail history. After all, it was just that one store clerk. But I can’t help but see the experience as an object lesson of sorts — of the dangers of complacency.
I’m not sure what went wrong for Fannie May. It seems to me, though, that other retailers have been doing a better job of keeping it current with more updated assortments and gift items with more panache and pizzazz — often at better values and in more contemporary retail settings. There are no sure things for retailers. The confectionery retailers that prosper, though, will be those who make it a point to figure out what consumers want by staying abreast of lifestyle and demographic trends. They’ll make it easy to shop and deliver sweet solutions to gift-giving needs — even for the last-minute shoppers among us.
The good news for the many Fannie May devotees out there is that the brand has been acquired by Alpine Confections. The company’s co-founders, David L. Taiclet and Taz Murray, have said that they plan to treat Fannie May as a flagship brand. Who knows? Perhaps some day we’ll even see a return of a revitalized Fannie May retail organization.
Confectioner’s Category Handbook
We’ve tweaked the format of our Category Handbook issue in response to input from our readers. In addition to a new design courtesy of our graphic designer, Josh Majka, you’ll find more info graphics in the issue.
We extend our sincerest thanks to our key data providers, ACNielsen, Information Resources Inc. and www.productscan.com. Special thanks to Hershey Foods, as well, for sharing data..