PINE BLUFF, Ark. -- The Mad Butcher Supermarkets here has instituted a Candy & Snack Carnival promotion, which has proven to be a sane approach to competing with mass merchandisers for candy sales.
The nine-store operator's Carnival is a week-long promotional event that focuses on massive displays of low-priced candy items.
"We sat down and decided that we're not going to just sit here and let the discounters take this category away from us," said Roger Burks, senior vice president. "So, we said, 'If we promote and display candy, we can sell it, too.'
"Candy and snacks are a strong force," he continued. "We try to promote different categories all over the store and have the same type of sale events [as mass merchandisers]. We key on things like Mexican foods . . . to let the customers know we do have them." Having completed a carnival in June, The Mad Butcher has slated another for this month for the back-to-school period.
During the carnival, Burks estimates the stores sell between six and seven times the usual amount of candy "because of the big displays we build. The sales are astronomical."
To make sure the displays are built to sell, Burks runs a display contest for his in-store personnel. "It's not judged necessarily on the amount, but on the variety of products and the creativeness of the display," he explained.
"We have one store that has a huge wall of values and they take one side of it and use about a 24-foot section. Then they create some sort of scene related to
whatever the event is overhead on the warehouse racking. For this month's back-to-school promotion, they may have bicycles and whatever."
Generally speaking, Burks looks for at least a 70% sell-through on his candy carnivals. However, some units do even better. "As a matter of fact," he said, "in one of our stores, the sell-through is about 95%.
"Every year, we can never order enough Christmas candy or Halloween candy for that store. We can put it out a week before we did last year -- which is normally what we try to do -- but we still seem to come up short."
Indeed, being the first on the block to display candy is the key to successful sales during the upcoming holidays and any future carnivals, Burks noted.
For June's promotion, the biggest vendor contributors were Hershey and Mars because the bulk of the carnival was in chocolate. This month, Burks was planning on focusing on Leaf candies and Nestle products.
To herald the June carnival, The Mad Butcher ran two full-page ads, featuring a clown and products such as Hershey's Kisses for $2.69 (14-ounce bag), and two 10-ounce packages of M&M's for $3.