Playing To Win At Candy Retailing
Mary Ellen Kuhn
Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Chicago for the past two decades, I remain loyal to my Western Pennsylvania roots. So Super Bowl Sunday last month was a good day for me. So much so that this month’s column will (for one time only, I assure you!) adopt a sports theme — retailing lessons drawn from the sporting arena. Here’s the rundown of retailing recommendations with a nod to the teams, individuals or events that inspired them.
Make sure the fundamentals of your game are solid. With strong fundamentals in place, you’re in an excellent position to benefit from a little luck (as I must admit the Pittsburgh Steelers did with the Super Bowl officiating!).
The star players of candy retailing keep great records and are able to tap into them easily.  Having detailed records for sales and sell-through of seasonal SKUs stocked the prior year, for example, will allow for more accurate purchasing decisions in the current year.
In a similar vein, be sure to do the math. Stocking a winning confectionery assortment requires selecting the right items and pricing them to turn quickly, provide an appropriate profit and deliver a good value to the consumer.  
Respect your fellow team members. Wouldn’t it have been nice if U.S. Olympic speed skaters Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick had shown a bit more class during the winter games? Whatever happened to supporting all the members of the team rather than taking sulky-sounding jabs at them?
Their unfriendly rivalry and sniping serve as a reminder of the importance of treating all members of the team with fairness and respect — even when your agendas differ. In the candy arena, the current sugar price situation requires both vendor and retailer players to communicate and act ethically and honestly to set fair prices and to work at limiting a negative impact on retail sales. Teamwork will be more important than ever.
Avoid the narrow view. As Dick Cheney would surely tell you, in life as in the sport of quail hunting, keep your eye on the target, but do watch out for what’s occurring on the periphery. You’ll be so sorry if you don’t.  
To wit, it’s critical for candy category managers to stay up to speed not only on developments within their own chain, but on what the competition is doing as well. Also, keep tabs on the demographics of your market areas and adjust your product mix accordingly. And pay attention to consumer trends — the latest diets, nutritional concerns and lifestyle patterns may affect how the consumer is thinking about candy these days. Ditto on staying abreast of developments in other snack and treat product categories. More and more, candy is competing with snacks, energy bars, cookies and the like for a share of the shopper’s stomach.
Meanwhile, we’ll do our best here at Confectioner to keep you informed and well-positioned for success in this fast-moving, ever-changing game of candy marketing.