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Unwrapping Seasonal Candy Opportunities

Danielle Romano

NATIONAL REPORT — When it comes to confections, seasonal momentum can help convenience store retailers win all year long. Traditionally, the core four holiday occasions are Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas/wintertime. More than 60 percent of the confectionery category’s sales come during these four periods, and 16 percent of sales are generated by seasonally coded items, the National Confectioner Association’s (NCA) Sweet Insights: State of Treating 2020 report showed.

“[Consumers] confirmed what we already know: chocolate, candy, gum and mints are so special in our lives because of the emotional connection we have with them,” NCA President and CEO John Downs said. “We love candy not only because it’s ‘yummy,’ but because of its indelible place in our holidays and celebrations, the warm memories it evokes, and the happy smiles it brings to the faces of our friends and family when we gift and share it. After all, 78 percent of us agree that sharing and gifting seasonal chocolate and candy is a great American tradition.”

Consumers, in general, may not currently think of convenience stores as a go-to destination for seasonal confection purchases, but this is a misconception. To change their perspective, c-store supplier partners have three key pieces of advice for retailers:

1. Leverage the shift in consumer exploration

According to NCA’s Sweet Insights report, throughout the year, 69 percent of shoppers tend to purchase confectionery along with the rest of their groceries at their primary grocery store. However, while supermarkets continue to lead as the primary grocery store for shoppers’ confectionery purchases, share is moving to other formats as consumers frequent traditional stores less often and explore other channels.

The key to engaging these consumers who are willing to shop elsewhere is education, Daniel Sadler, principal, client insights for IRI, told Convenience Store News.

“Seasonal confections are about moments, family, sharing, and reflection on childhood. In addition, consumers love to shop the seasonal aisle because of the themed products and engaging section,” he said. “The seasons offer convenience store retailers an opportunity to engage with their shoppers in a fun and experiential way that will drive incremental traffic and sales. The key will be to inform consumers about their offerings, so consumers know to try.”

2. Take advantage of everyday celebrations

Because seasonal holidays are waiting-to-happen events, “everyday celebrations” are bountiful opportunities for c-store retailers to take advantage of, according to suppliers.

Several definitive “shoulder holidays” also exist, such as Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Back to School, Kwanza and Hanukkah.

“The trick to capitalizing on these events is long-range planning,” noted Clark Taylor, senior vice president of sales and marketing for CandyRific LLC, which sells year-round and seasonal novelty confectionery items that boast unique features.

“[Operators] need to be able to look three to six months in advance to see what is coming and then to structure their displays, buying and merchandising with enough advanced notice to their suppliers to bring the products together at the perfect time,” Taylor continued. “Be bold in your direction.”

3. Be a master at seasonal merchandising

Late last year, Mars Wrigley U.S. collected insights into what’s important to shoppers at certain points within each season and developed recommendations to help retailers shift to capitalize on seasonal opportunities year-round and increase product sales.

The manufacturer found that implementing seasonal promotions to increase visibility would help retailers leverage seasonal confectionery's impulsivity and increase shopper satisfaction in stores.

Some of Mars Wrigley’s recommendations include:

  • Using navigational cues such as touchpoints throughout the store that complement the main seasonal/candy aisle and secondary displays;
  • Creating mini destinations in the main seasonal/candy aisle that highlight the season and inspire shoppers;
  • Utilizing bold pricing, which is critical to driving aisle navigation and encouraging impulse confectionery purchases that meet shoppers' different budgets; and
  • Showcasing seasonal products in high-visibility checkout areas to invoke shoppers' impulsivity before they exit the store.

"Consumers are using confections at mini and master moments to create celebrations year-round,” said Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience at Mars Wrigley. “C-store retailers have a great opportunity to capture the consumer and remind them why confections are vital to any celebration.”

About the Author

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano is Managing Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2015. Danielle manages the overall editorial production of Convenience Store News magazineShe is also the point person for the candy & snacks and small operator beats.

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