The Bulk Of It

Bulk candy continues to be a huge opportunity for those retailers who can handle its critical maintenance.
Nearing the $1.5 billion mark, bulk candy still has ample room for sales growth, according to category experts. While retailers love its consumer appeal and 40-50 percent-plus profit margins, they quickly learn that keeping the category in pristine condition is critical—and often difficult. Then again, there are those specialty stores with businesses that have been thriving on it. Retailers in the mass market—particularly food chains with very stringent health code concerns in other areas of the store such as meat—can do well with bulk candy if they learn to treat it as a separate and special entity.
Bulk candy may be the best way to involve shoppers in the candy section and keep them there buying more product than they would if there were no bulk section. Shoppers love to pick their own assortment and quantity. But freshness and cleanliness is priority one. Retailers should be constantly checking out the latest technologies and offerings in the category, such as gravity-fed dump dispensers and programs featuring 100 percent wrapped candies.
Think bulk candy is not for your consumer? Think again. Self-service is at an all-time high at retail with the popularity and convenience of self-serve checkout lanes, other self-serve specialty items such as ground coffee, ground peanut butter, soup and salad bars, bagel and bakery kiosks. Today’s consumer is not only used to this method of shopping, studies show that a great majority prefer it. Therefore, retailers that apply the imperatives of other self-serve areas to bulk candy have an even greater opportunity to build brand loyalty (their store being the brand).
Produce is a natural bulk-candy neighbor because shoppers buy bulk candy the same way they buy produce: they choose the quantity they want, weigh it, and put it in a bag. Alongside floral/balloon departments is another natural adjacency because they are attractive, open spaces where consumers can wander and store employees can regularly tend.
With portion control treats in high consumer demand, bulk candy sections are expected to thrive with the right merchandising. What is most important now will remain so in its future success—cleanliness and rotation.
Merchandising Musts
Cleanliness is next to bulkiness.
This can’t be stressed enough. If you can’t keep it clean, you can’t keep it—period. The best way to achieve this is to have a bulk service as well as store employees dedicated to the section. One ensures category management and expertise in rotation, the other ensures "always on call" tending.
Give it the sign.
Bulk candy sections that are successful can return keystone profit margins. Those that are well-signed can take the category even higher than that.
Forget the rainbow effect.
Experts in the category have discovered that color patterns such as rainbows are very common to consumers and will not draw exceptional attention. Some suggest that to really capture consumers’ interest, bulk candy displays should go light and dark in a random order. This apparently will enhance the shopper’s sense of discovery and pull their attention over to the display. Changing this light and dark order from time to time is also recommended. Constantly keeping the area visually exciting will keep it well visited.