CHICAGO (FNS) -- Although candy buyers and manufacturers already do a good job of seasonal merchandising during the four big candy holidays -- Halloween, Christmas, Easter and Valentine's Day -- there are things that can be done throughout the year, according to two marketing experts.
"Take a broader definition of what a season is," urged John L. Stanton, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University, Pa., during a seminar on seasonal merchandising at the fourth annual All-Candy Expo, held here June 6 to 8.
"So much of what we do is just put ads out at a price. The confectionery industry must look at fresh, new merchandising ideas," he said.
Stanton and fellow professor Richard George suggested 10 other "seasons" the industry could use to increase candy sales.
First, celebrate holidays in addition to the big four; make them candy occasions, they urged. For example, April Fool's Day lends itself to fun candy items, and Mother's and Father's Day can be promoted as candy occasions, said Stanton.
"Why isn't candy a major player on Secretary's Day?" asked George, adding that candy can be tied into Fourth of July promotions, birthdays and other holidays.
And Stanton urged retailers not to forget ethnic holidays as opportunities to include candy in promotions.
Candy merchandising can also be tied to sporting events, they said. "Why is the Super Bowl only about salty snacks?" asked Stanton. Add candy to March Madness and Kentucky Derby merchandising programs, he suggested.
Stores, particularly convenience stores near ballparks and stadiums, can offer game packs of snacks and candy, ready to pick up. Similar packages of candy and snacks can be targeted to boaters in markets near the water, or to hikers and other active sports enthusiasts by emphasizing the high-energy value of candy, they said.
Families with vacation homes are another target, they suggested. Retailers could put together a package of snacks, including candy, for these folks to pick up Friday night on their way to their cottages, said Stanton. A similar package, with a roll of paper towels or wet wipes and a trash bag, could be merchandised for family auto trips.
Education "is one of the biggest missed opportunities of the candy industry," said Stanton.
George suggested displays of candy "to put in backpacks" in the spring, around the time of elementary- and middle-school trips.
For prom night, merchandising could encourage bringing candy to a date, candy packs can be offered to couples or to limousine companies for inclusion in the limo, and candy should be included in the deli department ads for post-prom parties, George and Stanton said.
Stores could also offer some type of mailer and suggest parents fill it with candy to send to students away at college, particularly around exam time.
And, George emphasized, if stores are located near college campuses, advertise candy and other snacks in the college newspaper. It is, he noted, "cheap, and half the time they never get around to sending a bill" for the ads.
The Internet offers another "occasion" for candy merchandising, the professors said. George urged candy manufacturers in particular to reconsider their Web sites and offer suggestions for candy-giving occasions on the site. The Internet, he noted, is a great way to reach generation Y, the children of the baby boomers, a group only slightly smaller in size than their parents' famous generation.
In addition, Stanton said, the growing Hispanic population is underserved, as it consumes a higher-than-average amount of sweets, is extremely brand-loyal "and you get extra holidays" to promote."
Other target markets to consider are older shoppers; Generation X, perhaps appealing to their fondness for extreme games; and single moms or people who work at home, perhaps with the deserved-treat approach, Stanton said.
Another suggestion they had is to tie candy merchandising to the four seasons. For example, candy could be merchandised with gardening supplies in the spring, and should also be included in summer picnic and barbecue advertising, Stanton said.
More and more non-traditional retail channels are offering opportunities for candy sales, he continued, referencing the sales of salty snacks in office-supply stores. Candy could also easily be sold where young shoppers are, including skate and surf shops, video stores, specialty retailers and even tattoo parlors. Older shoppers can be reached with candy displays in florist shops or liquor stores.
Special family events offer additional candy-merchandising occasions.
"Get in on everyone else's weeks and events," urged Stanton, with candy suggested to celebrate weddings, graduations, a new home and reunions. "Where is the candy in all these graduation-party ads?" he asked.
Finally, the professors urged retailers and manufacturers to use relationships to market candy, tying it to such relationships as grandparent-grandchild, student-teacher, athlete-coach and doctor-patient.
"How much more candy can you sell during the four main holidays? Look elsewhere to create sales," Stanton concluded.