Aggressive cross-merchandising helped sweeten sales in bakery departments across the country this Valentine's Day.
Promoting cakes and cookies along with roses, greeting cards and stuffed animals provided increased sales by easing decision-making dilemmas for shoppers, particularly men, several retailers said.
E.W. James & Sons, a 16-unit retailer based in Union City, Tenn., offered a sweetheart package that included a heart-shaped cake, a long-stem rose and a balloon. The package retailed for $12.97 and was a popular item, according to Darryl Bruff, deli-bakery supervisor.
"With the sweetheart package, men have a choice of what they're bringing home," he said. E.W. James also touted heart-shaped cakes for $3.99 and cupcake party trays at $26.99.
Bruff said his 30% increase in sales this Valentine's Day was partly due to better weather. "Last year, we had the worst ice storm in 20 years hit right before Valentine's Day," he said. J.H. Harvey, Nashville, Ga., installed lobby displays that incorporated baked goods, stuffed animals and flowers, according to Frances Ezzard, director of bakery and deli for the 38-unit retailer.
"The floral departments in some of our stores are so small, we couldn't do much cross-merchandising there," she said.
Ezzard said the large displays allowed consumers, mostly men, to run in, grab their purchases and leave. "They knew exactly what they wanted," she said. "The men didn't really shop."
Ezzard said a nine-inch brownie sold in a heart-shaped pan was a popular item. That retailed for $3.99, she said.
Another strong seller was fudge, which was sold in little gold window boxes that included a name card.
Next year, Ezzard said she would like to attract more shoppers by building outdoor displays. "We'll try to attract some of the people who don't actually come into the stores," she said.
Quick, easy shopping was promoted at the Atlanta division of Winn-Dixie Stores, which opened a special Valentine express checkout lane during peak hours on Feb. 14, according to an advertisement that appeared in a local newspaper.
"We want to make Valentine giving as quick and easy as possible for you," the ad read. "Winn-Dixie has everything you need to insure that your sweetheart has a great Valentine's Day!"
The ad promoted a dozen Valentine party cookies at $1.98, and Valentine cupcakes at six for $2.99.
Tom Hughes, director of marketing for Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa., said cross-merchandising and creating atmosphere helped sales for the 14-unit retailer. "Valentine's Day may be a small holiday, but we do some nice things," he said. Several units put up balloon arches, and bakery departments were decorated in Valentine colors, he said. Advertising was a key for some retailers. A new campaign helped boost sales nearly 30% at D&W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich., according to Ed DeYoung, director of bakery operations for the 25-unit retailer.
"We broke this year with an in-store bag-stuffer one week before Valentine's Day," he said. "The specials were good for the entire week." A 10-inch chocolate chip cookie, decorated with frosting, was highlighted in the bag stuffer, he said. The cookies, which retailed for $3.99, were baked, decorated and sold in the baking pan and proved very popular, he said. "It was a good value for the customer," he said.
DeYoung said he also introduced a cherry-flavored angel food cake for the holiday, which was also very popular.
DeYoung said his shoppers are health-conscious even on Valentine's Day.
"Next year, we're looking to incorporate smaller consumable items," he said. "We had requests for smaller items. Everyone's watching their weight now. We're looking at anything sweet we can scale down to a smaller size, like a brownie." Tom Thumb Food & Drugs, Dallas, promoted a $3.59 sale in a local newspaper. In an ad headlined, "Sweets for your Sweetie," shoppers were offered their choice of a 12-ounce heart-shaped cheese cake, a 9-inch heart-shaped decorated chocolate chip cookie, a white or chocolate 8-inch Valentine cake or a dozen Valentine cupcakes, all for $3.59. Nine-unit Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind., tried to appeal to parents by promoting itself as a party center for classroom and children's parties, said Tim Kean, deli, bakery and seafood merchandiser.
Kean said generic promotions for cupcakes and cakes appeared in newspaper ads and in-store circulars several weeks before Valentine's Day. "We wanted parents to know they didn't need to worry about their kids' parties," he said.