FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Kids and, perhaps, dentists in the Cincinnati area are smiling a little more these days: Year-over-year sales of sweets have jumped 20%, more than double the store's expectations, since Jungle Jim's International Market here consolidated its candy displays into a single department.
Previously, sales had been growing about 2% per week, said Mark Criswell, candy buyer.
Criswell attributed the recent sales lift to candy's consolidation and its new, high-traffic location near the bakery.
"Bringing it all together helped a lot," he said. "It's right in the traffic flow where everybody has to go through."
The new department, called Jungle's Candy Spot, houses some 8,000 confectionary stockkeeping units. Before the reorganization, he estimated, about 2,500 SKUs were in displays scattered throughout the selling floor.
Most of the new items, and the fastest movers, are kid-aimed novelties, Criswell said. "Anything I put up there sells," he said.
Jungle's unique display fixtures haven't hurt. Many of the novelties are merchandised on four bumper cars that have been outfitted with shelves, in keeping with the store's overall carnival-like atmosphere.
"It's wonderful," Criswell said. "It becomes a conversation piece. People leave the store, they tell somebody else."
Kids also are drawn to the novelty candy display by its famous lion-in-resident, Elvis, a singing robot that the store considers its mascot.
Elvis, who is retired from the Chuck E. Cheese kids' restaurant, is dressed like The King. He resides in a tiki hut at the center of the new department.
Sales at the Candy Spot look to blast off again after May 26, when the store will begin a promotion with the Mars candy company. People who buy Mars' Milky Way bars at Jungle Jim's will be eligible for passes to "The War of the Worlds," the movie based on H.G. Wells' book about a battle between Earth and Mars. The grand prize is a trip to Mars (the western Pennsylvania hamlet, not the planet) and a Saturn.
The Candy Spot, which has been open since February, was one outcome of the expansion and reorganization of the 285,000-square-foot store.
Jungle Jim's also had adult customers in mind when it designed the department, which comprises 96 running feet of candy. In response to customer requests, Criswell added a wide selection of old-fashioned candy. These items, among them salt water taffy, dot candy, candy necklaces, marshmallow cones and jawbreakers, are especially popular with customers of baby boom age and older, he said.
There's also a large Jelly Belly Candy Co. bulk display, where shoppers can bag their own jelly beans, choosing from more than 50 flavors.
"We've never had this much concentration," said Sarah Baumann, the store's creative services director. "We've always had candy all over the place, and still do, but this is more old-fashioned, American candy, with licorice and jaw breakers, and now with the Jelly Belly [display], it looks just like a rainbow."
The bumper cars came from the junk pile of King's Island, a local amusement park. They're among a number of castoffs that Jim's owner Jim Bonaminio has scavenged from the park over the years and stowed away until he found a use for them.
As the candy department started to take shape, Baumann recalled, Bonaminio said one day, "Do you know what I'm going to do with my bumper cars? They're going to be candy displays."
Candy continues to be displayed in impulse displays, and candy from different countries is merchandised in the international aisles.