A little more creativity and a jump start on the season helped boost bakery sales over last year's for many retailers this Halloween.
Retailers polled by SN all said they had strong sales. Some attributed the results to their extra efforts in decorating and promoting cupcakes and cakes. Lower prices at some chains also helped lift sales.
However, most said they noticed people are simply getting more excited about Halloween. "I think people are celebrating Halloween more. It does seem more people between their 20s and 40s are celebrating and having parties," said Jennifer Myers, bakery manager for Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio.
"Our bakery sales this year were better than last," said Joseph Colaianni, bakery-deli buyer and merchandiser for Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C.
"We shipped the product out earlier this year. We sent it out at the end of September. It got it into the store's hands that much earlier. They were able to process it and get it out on display earlier. The whole thing just worked out real nice," he said.
Starting early also proved successful for George Jenkins, bakery, deli and restaurant buyer-merchandiser for Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash. "We started production on our cookies and things at least a month in advance," he said. "They sell well at that point. We also bake them fresh every day."
Jeff Ruple, bakery director for Harvest Foods, Little Rock, Ark., said early promotions helped give his bakeries a boost. "We started beating the drums back in early October," he said.
Ruple said he sold almost 100,000 decorated cupcakes through the chain's 54 units.
"We aggressively promoted all our cupcakes," he said. "We had the best prices in town. We sold six for $1.99, and our competitors were selling them between $2.49 and $2.99."
Ed DeYoung, director of bakery operations for D&W Food Center, Grand Rapids, Mich., said merchandising decorated cupcakes differently this year boosted his company's sales.
"We feature Halloween decorated cupcakes in four-packs, so we had a really aggressive feature on the four-packs. We also ran a coupon in our ad for a dozen holiday cupcakes. That was intended to tie into kids' Halloween parties. That was real successful."
DeYoung said the stores couldn't keep in stock items made using the company's scratch formula icing, custom-colored in orange and black.
"Our stores used that as the base for all of their decorating over the Halloween period. It was really successful. Our sales were so good, we did run short."
For a more sophisticated crowd, DeYoung said Halloween swirl bread was popular. "It's basically a pumpernickel rye and an orange-colored Jewish rye in a swirled form and then cut in half. We sold almost 1,000 loaves of that in our stores."
Most retailers said they stuck with traditional items such as cupcakes, cakes and cookies. John Cannistra, director of deli-bakery for Farm Fresh, Norfolk, Va., attributed strong sales to a repeat of last year's "cake-a-rama," which featured a dozen varieties of layer cakes. "For Halloween, there are all the crazy, monster styles for cakes. We went out a little cheaper to try to create some more volume, and that proved to be very successful," he said.
Cannistra said store decorations and contests helped get consumers into the Halloween spirit. "In my mind, Halloween has been getting bigger. It's good for everyone."