Sparking Seasonal Confectionery Sales
By Paul Waldron,
Gladson Interactive
Selling more seasonal candy requires more of a merchandising commitment in the store.

Retailers have done a good job bringing shoppers to the traditional candy aisles. It is time now, many experts agree, to refocus on seasonal categories. The trend to get shoppers into the department more often has been accomplished by moves such as these.
• Retail theater, which ranges from artfully decorated display shippers  to interactive display components such as having a train run across the ceiling in a section of the store
• New merchandising twists such as merchandising by snacking occasion; lunchbox snacks or movie-time favorites are just two examples
• More co-branded and licensed candies
• Larger assortments of sugar-free or healthful candies — primarily in the non-chocolate category
• Innovative new items, especially those in convenient packages With shoppers trained to look for candy at their favorite store, retailers can capitalize on that everyday traffic to ignite seasonal sales. A well-stocked day-in and day-out department can help customers remember your store when it is time for a seasonal destination purchase. And clever seasonal displays will stimulate impulse sales.
“In candy, you really need to customers to buy just one more item to make a big difference on the bottom line,” says Wendy Liebmann, president and founder of WSL Strategic Retail.
2006 promises to be a good year for seasonal candy sales, according to Jim Corcoran, vice president of trade relations for the National Confectioners Association. The calendar is working in favor of the industry, he notes, adding that NCA is predicting low single-digit growth for seasonal confectionery sales for the year. That theory already held true for Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Tuesday. Chocolate sales rose 1.3 percent to $769 million, according to Information Resources Inc. data.
Sweets for your sweet
Valentine’s Day 2006 provided a good example of how to put pizzazz into the holidays. Both candy companies and retailers worked in tandem to feature more high-end selections this year. The result was that sales rose even though fewer units were moved. Several chains merchandised small candy items near kids’ Valentine’s Cards so shoppers could include a sweet with the note. Hershey’s was singled out by retailers as offering some especially clever Valentine’s products, including the new Kissables. Although not a seasonal item, the new candy-covered mini chocolate kisses certainly fit nicely into Valentine’s Day themes. A focus on premium candies at mass also helped Dove and Cadbury chocolate candy enjoy double-digit sales gains of 52 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Floorstands in floral, cosmetics, books and greeting cards departments helped some chains move more Valentine’s Day candies.
The Easter Bunny cometh
The relatively late date of Easter this year (in the same week as Passover) helped create strong demand for Easter candy. Although sales had not been reported at press time, several retailers estimated their sales were up over last year’s soft period. One program that helped crack open Easter sales was a new color-coded shelf header system that organized candy by shopping activity. Retailers hope to expand that concept for 2007.  
For those retailers offering kosher confections, the season was fruitful. Some chains carved out an entire Passover department.
Halloween stands on its own
Halloween is less likely than Valentine’s Day to be affected by the day of the week on which it falls. The biggest boost to sales has come in the growth of treat size package and mini-size bars. Data suggests that more than half of all snack-size candy sold at Halloween was specifically for trick or treaters vs. personal snacking. Halloween remains the biggest seasonal candy selling opportunity, so it’s critical for retailers to take steps to ensure that their store is the consumer’s Halloween shopping headquarters.
Research from The Hershey Company presented to retailers in business review meetings shows the accounts that do best are those that are most aggressive with signage, point of sale materials and decorations. Although Halloween is undeniably a big time for seasonal candy sales, chocolate sales rose only 0.4 percent last year and sales of non-chocolate products declined slightly. Retailers at chains including Brooks Drug, Walgreens, CVS and Wegmans say they plan to put more effort into Halloween 2007, especially with candy products aimed at adults and adult parties.
Holiday predictions
Shoppers are burdened with many bills — not to mention the skyrocketing price of gasoline, so clearly the pressure is on candy companies and retailers seeking to grab their fair share of consumers’ disposable income. To achieve that objective, make candy an escape they can’t resist and offer a smattering of “affordable luxury” goods, marketing pros recommend. With a season, shoppers may figure they have an extra reason to celebrate.
Convenience stores are showing the fastest growth in overall candy sales, according to Information Resources Inc. Other channels need to do more to make the trip quick and easy, Liebmann suggests.
Last Christmas was “okay” for most merchants with IRI reporting a 4.2 percent sales gain for chocolates, but a drop of 2.9 percent in non-chocolates.  Although consumers lament the early appearance of holiday merchandise, they still bought early — especially in candy. A survey of 15 drug store and food chains found that almost 50 percent of December holiday candy was sold two weeks before the day of the holiday. In comparison, half of fragrances are often sold in the last few days before the holiday, buyers said. Finally, experts point out that the winter holiday season can be stretched with winter images rather than specific Christmas or Hanukkah symbols on packaging and displays.