October means it’s time for Halloween. For me, that means hitting the mute button on commercials promoting my least favorite movie genre: horror.
I cringe at the concept of dead things coming back to life, people with chainsaws using them for something other than taking down trees, and children saying creeping things like “I see dead people.”
That said, I’ll take all the Halloween candy you got. Halloween, in my humble opinion, is a fun time to see the cool costumes kids come up with, and I may want to be known as the house with the “good” candy.
We’re fresh off the NACS Show, which is like adult trick-or-treating. I brought home exciting confections for kids decked out with the most creative costumes—the ones who really go for it and embrace Halloween in all its glory … or should I say gory? Those lucky kids will get chocolate and gummy candies that are not on store shelves yet.
This year was my 18th NACS Show. I’ve seen a ton of new products and companies break through at the NACS Show, and I’ve also attended quite a few memorable education sessions. One was a supplier session in 2013 on seasonal sales with Tim Quinn of Mars and Jeff Schouten of MillerCoors—both valued members of the NACS Supplier Board (Tim is now retired and Jeff has moved on from the c-store world).
Here’s a quick recap of what they covered, points that are still relevant in today’s c-store environment:
- Use seasonal merchandising vehicles to create points of interruption to maximize impulse sales.
- Creative point of sale materials can generate excitement with your customers.
- There are huge incremental sales and profit opportunity with seasonal candy.
Another notable insight I heard from a former NACS chairman was he could put Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs on shelves in July and they’d sell out in a day—a nod to the memories and nostalgia the confection evokes among customers.
That’s a tactic one retailer is using today:
“[D]on’t be afraid to get it out there early. … I get Halloween candy out there in July. … We sell more in July and August than we do September and October,” said Dan Razowsky, director of operations and marketing at Rmarts, in the October issue of NACS Magazine.
The challenge is space. This is why our channel won’t see the same sales spike during holidays as grocery and mass merch, which can stock and move a helluva lot more units than a 4,000 square foot c-store. This is when creative marketing and promotions need the volume turned up, like utilizing pump toppers, leveraging social media, BOGOs, coupons, etc.
Ten years later, we’re still recognizing the importance of showcasing seasonal strategies among the convenience retail community. This year’s NACS Show featured the education session “Growing Baskets with Seasonal Offerings,” where Joseph Bortner, senior category manager at Rutter’s, shared that some seasonal opportunities stand out from others.
“I’d contend that confection is the most important category as it pertains to seasonal,” he said. “I’d say as a percentage of category sales, no other category has the seasonal impact on total business as does confection.”
Although a smaller portion of total candy category sales (4.5% in 2022), seasonal candy experienced sales and gross profit increases of 6.6% and 12.4%, respectively, in 2022, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report® of 2022 Data. For a bit more perspective, seasonal candy sales have grown 85% since 2015 in the convenience channel.
Halloween is still a few weeks away, but if you’ve been into any major retail chain lately, you can likely guess which seasonal selling period is not just coming, but already here.