Candy Merchandising 101: Pay Attention!  
Mary Ellen Kuhn
We’ve all heard the admonition, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” As a guiding principle for life, I’m inclined to agree with this recommendation. Life is way too short to let a dented fender, computer crash, or a bad cup of coffee ruin one’s day (a fact that I fervently hope to remember the next time such a calamity does indeed befall me).
When it comes to merchandising the candy category, however, this advice just doesn’t cut it. Effective candy merchandising is all about sweating the small stuff! And what better time to home in on that reality than in our annual Candy Category Handbook issue, Confectioner’s once-a-year, category-by-category focus on “Candy Marketing and Merchandising 101.” In that spirit, some back-to-basics recommendations follow.
Plan-o-gram it! The first syllable in this word says so much. Whatever the class of trade, it’s critical to calculate the best-selling, most profitable items and to develop a shelf-by-shelf plan for positioning them most effectively in the store. Plan-o-grams should not be limited to the candy gondola; they can be invaluable at the front end and in the seasonal aisle as well. Needless to say, keep the plan-o-grams contemporary and ensure that resets are done on time.
Control out-of-stocks. As an industry, we place so much emphasis on developing creative new products and generating incremental sales via great promotions, but what about all the sales that are lost to out-of-stocks? It’s hard to come by statistics for the candy business, but the loss to the consumer packaged goods industry has been calculated at $6 billion annually.
To that end, don’t automatically assume that automatic replenishment is getting it right. It’s a valuable retailing tool, but certainly not error-proof. Front-end merchandising expert Cameron Cloeter of Impulse Marketing Co., Long Valley, N.J., points out that automatic replenishment tends to work better with slower-moving SKUs. In a busy front-end environment with multiple checkouts, the likelihood of errors in controlling out-of-stocks/managing inventory increases dramatically. So much so, Cloeter reports, that some retailers are discontinuing the use of automatic replenishment at the front end. So monitor this closely.  
Take a field trip. True, it’s hard to find the time for store checks, but there’s no substitute for watching the consumer where she shops. And a store visit also provides a great opportunity to assess store-level execution of programs planned at headquarters, not to mention getting some input from the front lines of retailing.  
Here’s the bottom line. Doing a great job with the candy category in the store requires attention to detail. A lot of it! It’s not always easy or fun, but for those who seek to earn an A+ in “Candy Merchandising 101,” it’s a course requirement.