MARYSVILLE, Wash. -- Allen Creek Thriftway here is looking to cookies to take its bakery sales to new heights this holiday season.
Already in September, cookies shaped like pumpkins and Halloween cats captivated customers' attention and sent bakery sales soaring. When the displays went up Sept. 25, they marked a first for this Thriftway and its sister store in Kingston, Wash.
"We didn't have seasonal cookies before, so these are all added sales.The cost of creating such cookies [Halloween shapes or Christmas trees with sprinkles] would not be feasible for us, but it's an extremely profitable category if you don't have to bake them yourself," said Ron Lynch, store manager at the Allen Creek store.
He explained that a little more than two months ago, the Allen Creek and Kingston Thriftways, for the first time, bulked up on cookies with pre-packed, ready-to-sell product from Cascade Cookie Co., which is based in nearby Kent, Wash.
Until then, the number of cookies the Thriftway units sold -- bake-offs from frozen dough, sold individually -- had been "nothing to speak of," Lynch said. Now, cookies make up about 20% of total bakery sales, he added.
"The Cascade cookies give us a lot of turns. I wouldn't buy them in the quantities I do, if they didn't. I'll be buying 50 to 60 cases a season, and I expect sales to continue growing," Lynch said.
The varieties he took on earlier this fall are shaped cookies, shortbread rounds, and two sizes of party tray. Now, getting ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, he has added one variety of Cascade's high-end, gourmet cookie line -- white chocolate raspberry -- in addition to more shaped cookies. He expects that one, which he buys in bulk, to become a destination item.
"I would challenge you to try that cookie and not believe that someone's mother made it in her kitchen. They're what you look for when you set out looking for a cookie."
He went on to describe the gourmet cookie, which will be packed in-store. "It sounds strange, but it's like a chocolate chip cookie with little raspberries in it and chunky white chocolate. They're about 3 inches in diameter."
Meanwhile, with Halloween over, Allen Creek Thriftway is selling a lot of Cascade's shortbread rounds. That's a cookie that lends itself to just about any season, Lynch said. It's flower-shaped, and decorated with sprinkles -- orange for Halloween, orange and brown for the rest of the fall, and green and red for Christmas.
"We're selling a fair number of party trays, but we also know that a lot of the cookies from the regular packages end up on trays for staff meetings and for seasonal parties at home. The Cascade packaged cookies give us the opportunity to build huge displays and look seasonal, which attracts attention."
He added that he has stacked the packages of cookies high on a table in the bakery and also has built a freestanding display of cases of the cookies in the dairy department.
"We like their style of packaging. It makes it easy to build big displays because the containers interlock. Also, the packages give the perception that the products are baked here because they're simple clamshells like a retailer would use."
Lynch sees seasonal cookies as a convenient, untapped sales driver in the bakery. He was formerly manager of a Thriftway store in Renton where cookie sales were generated primarily by Cascade's products, he said. Lynch believes cookies sell so well these days because they're convenient and their uses are multiple, from lunch-box treats, to house gifts, to party trays, or just an easy dessert.
"Women don't have time to bake anymore. Think of the party trays, in particular. They're a fancy, festive assortment. You've saved yourself at least four hours in the kitchen," he said.