August 1, 2005
Mary Ellen Kuhn
As mom to a couple of middle schoolers, I am well aware of the fact that there are occasions in life when blending in with the crowd is of paramount importance. While that may be a guiding principle for navigating the tween/teen years, it’s not such a good thing for retailers seeking to carve out a niche in an overcrowded, overwhelmingly competitive marketplace. The last thing that any retail chain should want is to blend in with its retailing peers!
So when I saw some of the findings from a new retailing study conducted by The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., I was impressed by what consumers had to say about Target. The research took a close-up look at how consumers felt about their shopping experiences in the major retail channels. What was notable about Target was that shoppers did not lump it in with other mass merchandisers/supercenters. They viewed it as a distinct entity with unique appeal.
Target’s approach to merchandising the candy category epitomizes the retailer’s particular ability to stand out from the crowd. First of all, candy is positioned near the store entrance. That is so right on for candy’s impulse-driven, affordable-luxury positioning. The coolest thing of all, however, is Target’s colorful signage, done in a style that manages to be contemporary while also calling to mind an old-fashioned candy store motif. Not only does it draw the eye, but it also very effectively—and non-traditionally—organizes the section. The header for the premium candy section, for example, proclaims in a casual, easy-to-read script, “I want the best chocolate!” Under that banner you can find products from Lindt, Perugina, Harry London, Ghirardelli and others. Down the aisle a bit further, for a section that includes 44-ounce bags of Hershey Kisses and 3-pound bags of M&M’s, there’s a header that reads, “I want the biggest bags.” For the sugar-free and diet-type candies, the header is, “I want to watch my diet.” For singles, it’s, “I want a quick treat.”
You don’t have to be a psychologist to see the personal appeal here—i.e. use of the personal pronoun, “I.” And even more important than that, I think, is the consumer-focused organization. It’s easy to figure out where to go within the aisle, depending on what your needs are. It’s little wonder that Target is delighting Wall Street as well as consumers.
“Expect more. Pay Less.” Target’s well-publicized tag line might be considered a retailing mission statement—one that Target executes brilliantly. Every candy category management team has the opportunity to do just that—to create an assortment that fits your chain’s positioning, is consumer-focused, and helps deliver a point of difference. The candy category truly does have something for almost everyone. No single retailer can possibly carry all the available SKUs, so why not use that to your advantage? Stock an assortment that includes some unique items, possibly items developed in cooperation with key candy vendors. Then merchandise the category to help your company’s stores stand out from their retailing peers.
Your customers will notice.