Seasonal displays are helping retailers get higher bulk candy profits during lucrative holiday selling periods.
Retailers told SN that featuring bulk selections geared to occasions like Halloween, Christmas and Easter helps boost traffic in their candy sections.
Every year for Halloween, the Atlanta division of Cub Foods, Stillwater, Minn., merchandises an island display of bulk candy. This year's display will hold 10 different varieties.
"We put this in every year prior to Halloween to get all the sales we can in September and October on bulk candy through the produce department," said Ken Lanhardt, produce director.
"Those [seasonal sales] become plus sales when you've got a demand item, and candy is always a demand item for Halloween," Lanhardt added. Awareness is raised through newspaper ads and point-of-purchase materials, Lanhardt said.
Cub Foods is a subsidiary of Supervalu, Minneapolis.
Thrifty Foods, Burlington, Wash., also uses newspaper ads to tout its seasonal bulk candies, said Ben Ebbesen, bulk food and health food merchandiser.
Promotions get heavier during the holiday season because of the opportunity to make an average 35% to 50% margins.
One of the best ways to improve margins is to get items that fit the season, but also can sell well year-round.
For example, Andronico's Market, Albany, Calif., carries jelly beans throughout the year. Its stores highlight pastels for Easter and a mix of orange and black beans for Halloween, said the chain's president, Bill Andronico.
"When we get into a fall set, or a holiday set, we'll rotate out certain items and bring in others that make sense for Halloween and other holidays," Andronico said.
Other standard bulk items that fit the seasonal bin might starlight mints and orange slices. A category manager at a Midwestern chain said Christmas is a good time to bring in old-fashioned bulk candy because it appeals to older consumers, and it makes a good candy dish item.
"It's an important product because the customer perceives that it's fresher in bulk," said the category manager, who requested anonymity.
Stores that don't have the room to bring in an entire bulk section can dedicate an endcap to seasonal bulk, the category manager added.
Placement of both an auxiliary display and a permanent one is an important part of successful bulk candy merchandising. Because bulk candy's colorful and extensive assortment generates excitement, retailers said, displays should be found in high-traffic areas to capture impulse sales.
Some retailers prefer constructing a display in the produce section. Because it is often the first department in the shopping pattern, people are more likely to pick up candy there than when they reach the candy aisle with a full shopping cart, said Ralph Schwartz, produce buyer at Roundy's, Pewaukee, Wis.
An executive with Oklahoma City-based Fleming Cos. said most retailers choose the produce area because of the impulse nature of candy. He also pointed out that there is usually someone in the department whose presence helps deter theft.
"Bulk does require some maintenance because you've got to restock it. You've got to police up around the display because there are going to be bags and pieces of candy on the floor.," said Jay Breithaupt, director of grocery category management at Fleming.
Merchandising bulk in the produce department isn't the only alternative, retailers said.
"We have one section that's close to the produce department, but we're not necessarily looking at that spot. We're looking at a place where customers can shop but not have a million carts running into them because you really need time to shop the section," said the category manager with the Midwestern chain.
Shoppers enjoy an unhurried browse through the bulk candy area because they can pick and choose variety and weight. Bulk items permit them to have more control over their shopping experience, retailers said.
"If they want to buy a handful, they can buy a handful," Thrifty Foods' Ebbesen said.
He said Thrifty separates its bulk items into another department, which is most often found just outside the produce department. Super G in Cherry Hill, N.J., also offers a bulk foods aisle, SN found in a store visit.
Super G, which is owned by Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, used a brochure to encourage its shoppers to buy bulk confections. The flier read, "Serve yourself and buy as little or as much as you want. Bulk foods eliminate waste, are convenient and don't use as much packaging." The chain also stressed its strict sanitation standards and assured product freshness.
Many retailers prefer to keep bulk displays separated from the in-line candy sections so they can get supplemental sales, said Ebbesen of Thrifty Foods.