A longer selling season could mean big rewards for Spring 2006.

A shorter than average season, price pressures from the mults and last-minute shopping by consumers left many retailers hopping mad last spring. Few who were left with shelves of unsold Valentines, Easter eggs and Mother’s Day chocs could be blamed for regarding spring 2006 with suspicion.

However, with three more weeks to shift stock this year retailers shouldn’t make the mistake of ignoring the season altogether. HIM sales and marketing director Tom Fender says that retailers have to be prepared to give time and space to reap the real benefits: “Often retailers have merchandised these areas a bit half-heartedly but the season really needs an area of its own where you can have your Mother’s Day or Valentine’s display and which you can then switch straight into Easter.”

By doing this, he says, retailers can cross-sell easily, placing a variety of confectionery, alcohol and non-food items together to drive sales. “If you go to America, you should see how retailers out there really embrace seasons, from displays to getting the staff dressed up, to incentives and promotions. Retailers should really go for it.”

He says that small retailers need to convince the public that they can offer quality and credibility when it comes to special occasions - “particularly as people are so busy now - it’s time to become a solution to their needs”.

While retailers will already have begun stocking filled eggs from the beginning of January, the first important occasion of the year is St Valentine’s Day. According to Mintel, consumers are continuing to trade up to higher priced segments, mainly in the boxed chocolate market for Valentine’s Day.

As women are the main purchasers of confectionery gifts for Valentine’s, both Nestlé Rowntree and Kraft are focusing on male gifts. From Nestlé there’s the Yorkie ‘You’re my man’ 300g bar with red packaging at £1.99, and from Kraft comes Toblerone with ‘Lover Boy’, ‘I love you’ and ‘To my love’, retailing at £3.79.

Removable sleeves for such occasions are a godsend to retailers who do not want to be stuck with unsold seasonal stock, and several companies are providing them this year for both Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. Black Magic and Dairy Box have Valentine’s and Mother’s Day sleeves and there is also a removable ‘Love your mum’ sleeve for the 480g Quality Street cartons. Guylian has a special Valentine’s sleeve on its Praline Seashells, which will stand alongside its ‘I love you’ range.

And for any retailers who really don’t have the space for lots of boxed chocolates, there is still a chance to give customers a romantic treat - Swizzels Matlow reports that sales of its Love Hearts rise an average 250% at this time of year.

For retailers looking to provide the complete occasion, then cards and flowers provide a good chance of extra sales both on their own and by driving cross-merchandising.

According to Mintel’s Greeting Cards report of May 2005 last year, sales of spring season cards were disappointing due to clustering of the three main occasions of the season. However, in terms of value spring cards still showed an increase of almost 6% between 2002-2004, with consumers willing to spend a higher price per card than for Christmas and birthday occasions. Mintel consumer analyst Julie Sloan says that retailers need to avoid the ‘old dusty displays’ and really take advantage of consumers’ need for good quality cards.

“There is real value in the market. Consumers are looking for individuality and this is where convenience stores can come into play and really make an offering that has added value.”

As well as card sales that increase at this time of year, Flowerfête national account manager Ian Tranter says that flower sales can look forward to a boost, too. “In this period most of our customers expect to increase sales in an average week by four times. If the average is £100 you can look to £400, with margins of 15% upwards.” Fender agrees: “If you get the quality and offering right, people will pay the money.”

Once Mother’s Day is out of the way, retailers can turn their full attention to Easter. Hancocks buyer Jonathan Summerly says that there is a move away from the multiple discount purchases offered by supermarkets. “So you can get five eggs for a price, but does Gran really want five eggs? People know the price of the eggs and they know that you got them on discount.”

He says that retailers need to let customers know that they sell eggs by displaying early. “Choose your range carefully and know your customer and your competition. Seek to be different. You can’t compete on price and you don’t want to compete on price. The point of difference is the chance to earn more money.”

This year the market should be helped by three weeks longer in which to sell and a flurry of NPD, with manufacturers keen to cash in on the success of 2005 boxed chocolate launches. Also prevalent is the sprucing up of old favourites and the disappearance of those that haven’t faired so well.

First up, Cadbury has set its sights on ‘putting the heart back into Easter’, which means rationalising certain parts of its range while expanding others. Out goes Twirl medium, Chomp and Fudge small eggs and in comes a new extension to the successful Easter Egg Delight range, first seen last year. Cadbury says that the product managed to both maintain full price and margin values by targeting the premium sector. This year Cadbury is expanding the range to include those at the £4.99 price point.

They come filled with Cadbury chocolates, still with shelf standout packaging and an organza bag. The new eggs are available in three variants: milk chocolate, white chocolate, and orange. Improvements have been made across the Delight range to include better pack branding, security seals and a larger tag with improved product communication.

A multimedia marketing campaign will support the brand.
In filled eggs, continued emphasis will be put on market leader Cadbury Crème Egg, which has a predicted retail sales value of £29m in 2006. This year the company has improved the recipe with finer sugar and is ensuring full foil wrapper coverage with new enhanced wrapping technology.

TV support will continue throughout the season as part of a multimedia ad campaign. As part of an exclusive offer with Hancocks, retailers can buy Crème Eggs in a counter unit filled with 72 eggs, costing £16.49.

Continuing the masterbranding strategy, Cadbury Buttons Egg has been rebranded as Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons Egg. In the mini egg range improved pos for Cadbury Mini Eggs includes clip strips which allow eggs to be merchandised anywhere in store.

In the standard egg range Nestlé has reacted to research it undertook on the 2005 market which showed a gap in the market between £4.99 special eggs and heavily traded standard shell eggs which often sold for less than £3. As a result, the company has introduced a £3.99 range of eggs to bridge the gap. Two of these feature Disney licences: Chicken Little to coincide with the film which will be released at Easter; and Disney Princess.

Both eggs have a toy inside. The remaining three eggs all come with a mug, one of which changes colour when filled with hot liquid.

In the filled sector Nestlé has brought back its range of three eggs, consisting of Nestlé Double Cream filled egg aimed at adults, Smarties filled egg aimed at teenagers, and Milkybar filled egg aimed at children. All three retail at 38p each. New to accompany this is a filled egg mixed outer containing 72 eggs - 28 of each variant. It is designed with small stores in mind and costs £27.36.

In the special egg range, Nestlé is going for the ‘wow’ factor with eggs with added value. The Milkybar Buckaroo egg combines a white egg with the game Buckaroo while the Yorkie Subbuteo fun egg comes with a mini Subbuteo kit plus a 2006 World Cup wall chart.

Masterfoods is hoping to follow the success of last year’s Mars filled egg launch with a new three-pack format and a new Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Temptation Egg retailing at £1.05. This year pos for both includes interactive spinner headers inviting customers to choose between the two eggs.
In shell eggs, Maltesers sports new limited-edition spring designs which continue across the boxed Maltesers range in the 312g and 400g boxes. Expanding on the Masterfoods & Friends theme, the company has introduced two eggs within the £4.99 price point: Mars & Friends and Maltesers & Friends, both of which are accompanied by a selection of Masterfoods confectionery lines.

Following the launch of Galaxy Promises in 2005, the Galaxy Promises Egg will form an integral part of the spring range. The eggs include Galaxy Promises roast hazelnut and Galaxy Promises caramel crunch bars, retailing at £6.99. Also new is the Revels Luxury Egg which comes with two tubes of Revels and retails at £6.99.

At the luxury end Bendicks is extending last year’s boxed chocolate launches. The Gorgeous Egg features a chocolate scented teddy bear, 120g egg and a selection of Gorgeous chocolates. It retails at £9.99. The Chocolate Confections egg comes with a 300g egg and 130g chocolate box, retailing at £14.99. The popular Mingles range gets its own 180g egg plus 190g of Mingles chocolates. Rrp is £7.99.

Following the trend for dark chocolate eggs, the Dark Mint Collection Egg features a 300g dark chocolate mint egg made of 60% cocoa solids and comes with a 100g box of bittermints, mint crisps and Victorian mints. The egg is targeted at men, features a rope handle and retails at £12.99.

New from Elizabeth Shaw is a Champagne Truffles Egg inspired by the Fine Chocolates at Elizabeth Shaw range, retailing at £14.99. The milk chocolate egg comes with a gift-wrapped box of champagne truffle chocolates. The company has also repackaged other eggs in the range including the Mint Crisp Egg which retails at £7.99.

More repackaging from Kraft comes with a fresh design for Terry’s Chocolate Orange Segsations.

Guylian is following its launch of the Guylian Twists range with the Twist Egg, which comes complete with 200g of Guylian Twists, and is introducing a removable daffodil design sleeve for its Praline Seashells which it says can be used for both Easter and Mother’s Day. Also new is a Luxury Egg accompanied by three boxed varieties of the Guylian chocolate, retailing at £9.99.

And once you’ve got your stock together, it’s time to be brave and grit your teeth until the very end. Hancocks purchasing director Richard Brittle says: “Hold a good range in the last days before Easter. Supermarkets often sell out at this time and a huge number of purchases are made during these last few days.”

Advice from the manufacturers

Signpost boxed chocolate displays with beacon brands

Highlight new launches and brands receiving strong marketing support

Simplify the number of products on display and focus on bestsellers

Focus on the right range - keep fixtures and displays clear and easy to shop

Merchandise bestsellers on the shelf at eye level

Make use of filled eggs from January right through to Easter

Multiface the fastest selling packs

Maintain shell egg stock levels right up to Easter as more than half of the shell egg sales occur in the last two weeks

Know your competition and seek to be different on range

Tweak your display for Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, using a selection of generic gifting products plus some bespoke items for the occasion

Create a destination shop at the front of the store, linking products such as confectionery, cards and other potential gift solutions for each occasion

This is confectionery - focus on “fun” and “treat” and you won’t go far wrong.

Nestlé Rowntree Spring top 5
1 Filled egg mixed
2 Chicken Little fun inside egg
3 Aero Latte mug egg
4 Yorkie Subbuteo egg
5 Milkybar Buckaroo egg

Hancocks Spring top 5
1 Crème Egg Counter
2 Lily O’Brien Easter Eggs
3 Standard Twirl Egg
4 £2.49 Easter Mug
5 Buckets of Fun

Masterfoods Easter top 5
1 Filled Eggs
2 Galaxy Promises eggs
3 Maltesers World range
4 & Friends eggs
5 Premium eggs

Cadbury Easter top 5
1 Cadbury crème egg
2 Cadbury easter egg delight
3 cadbury mini eggs
4 cadbury flake egg
5 cadbury cdm caramel egg

Kraft Spring top 5
1 Toblerone 400g bars
2 Terry’s All Gold 225g
3 Terry’s Chocolate Orange
4 Segsations Egg
5 Terry’s Chocolate Orange Mini Egg

Bendicks Easter top 5
1 Gorgeous Easter Egg
2 Chocolate Confections Easter Egg
3 Mingles Easter Egg
4 Bendicks Dark Mint Collection Egg
5 Bendicks Gorgeous

Masterfoods Valentine’s & Mother’s Day top 5
1 Celebrations small carton
2 Maltesers 146g box
3 Celebrations large carton
4 Maltesers 312g box
5 Celebrations Champagne Bottle

Cadbury Valentine’s & Mother’s Day top 5
1 Milk Tray
2 Roses
3 Flake Moments
4 Roses Luxury Collection
5 roses