As every sales rep has probably told you by now, Easter 2011 is three weeks later than in 2010, creating plenty of opportunity for additional sales. However, there are some downsides to this, warns Ferrero. “Spring 2011 will see the longest selling period in more than 20 years a fact which brings both opportunities and threats,” says sales director Jason Sutherland. “On the one hand, get your offering right and you can really maximise your sales. Get it wrong, however, and it can turn customers off and make them feel like the fixture hasn’t changed for months.”

With Valentine’s Day done and dusted, it’s time to start thinking about how to make your Easter fixture truly vibrant. In-store theatre is one of the key areas where indies have the flexibility and immediacy that the mults lack.

Great bakes

Chocolate might be the main event at Easter, but other categories must not be overlooked. Homebaking, in particular, offers retailers a chance to cash in.

Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Puddings generated more than £650,000 in the convenience channel in the four weeks leading up to Easter 2010, and within this Aunt Bessie’s homebake Yorkshire Puddings grew at a rate of 24%.

Indeed, it seems consumers are getting more interested in doing that little bit extra in the kitchen when it comes to baked goods. Gill Davies, marketing director for Dr Oetker Ambient, says: “Homebaking is showing no sign of losing momentum and Easter is a key opportunity, with friends and family getting together over the holiday period. In 2010 the total market for homebaking including ingredients, decorations and mixes, rose 8% year on year over the Easter period. It’s a huge opportunity for retailers.”

“Imaginative aisle ends are a great way of creating in-store theatre,” says Haribo marketing manager Gemma Hicks. “Retailers can also display products in a way that offers their consumers ideas and reasons to purchase.”

Nestle’s Walker agrees: “These days you see more and more c-stores really showing their creative flair, developing a zone in-store that they can seasonalise with Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter.”

He encourages indies to think imaginatively in order to capture customers’ attention. “Our Smarties Friends range with a chick, bunny and bee have strings on the top, so they can be hung on door handles or trees for egg hunts. I actually see retailers using them for theatre in-store you could hang them on a little tree, for example.”

Mars adds that giving consumers a nod to their childhoods will help remind them of why Easter is important. Dhaliwal says: “When we’ve researched Easter in the past, it’s important for people to have the nostalgic cue, so if you can create that feeling in-store with baskets, chicks and so on, it will help boost your sales.”

But while traditional bunnies and chicks are all well and good, traditional mid-range eggs are less likely to be the focal point they once were for c-stores, so it’s best to keep a minimal range. “It’s not about stocking lots and lots of shell eggs, it’s about having a tight range in keeping with the two main shopping missions top-up and distress purchase,” says Walker.

Irvine agrees: “Convenience retailers have to stock shell eggs, but a vastly reduced range six to eight lines of the big hitters,” he recommends. “Previously, indies stocked kids’ 99p eggs, teens £2.99 eggs, and adults £4.99 eggs. Now that’s not in their interest. They need to free up space for impulse and novelty. Indies should aim for 70% impulse, 15% novelty, and 15% shell eggs.”

Hancocks Cash & Carry concurs. “Convenience stores need to focus their efforts on areas that the supermarkets do not dominate,” says purchasing director Jonathan Summerley. “Novelty is not a core area for supermarkets and there are many good products to suit this sector. Moulded Easter products are particularly attractive gifts for children, and many adults prefer to buy something a bit different instead of the cheapest shell egg they can pick up in the supermarket!”

So just what novelties should you be considering to give your Easter display the wow factor? Nestlé has launched a chicken and egg combo that falls perfectly into this category. The foil-wrapped chocolate chicken has a chocolate egg inside it filled with Smarties.

Meanwhile, Kraft’s Milka chocolate will be available as an 85g Solid Tablet Bunny. Kraft director of convenience and distributive Steve Mounty says: “It was a natural progression for Milka to move from chocolate tablets to tablet novelty. It’s a product that really gets into the spirit of the season.”

Another newcomer is the Kinder Surprise Bunny a hollow chocolate bunny with a Kinder Surprise toy inside. In addition, Ferrero is also launching a 100g Kinder Surprise egg, which comes with a gift tag to emphasise its position in the gifting segment.

Cadbury is also looking to add fun to the festivities with two new lines in its small eggs range. Cadbury Freddo and Curly Wurly shell eggs each contain one countline bar and a beanie toy. “Stocking these types of product is a real opportunity for c-stores to get on a level playing field with the mults,” says Cadbury UK trade communications manager Sue Nash.

The company is also launching Spots v Stripes versions of Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, which include a large shell egg and a frizbee.

And why stop at chocolate? “Although Easter may traditionally be dominated by chocolate, consumers are also looking for alternatives that offer them a sweet treat, which still celebrates the Easter occasion,” says Haribo’s Hicks. It has just launched four Easter products. Jelly Bunnies, Tangfast-chicks and Eggstras are available in 50g bags, while bunny-shaped foam and jelly sweets called Bunnymix come in 250g hanging bag and 225g multi-bag (10 mini packs) formats.

Read more:

Cash in: Easter - Over-egged
Cash in: Easter - Bigger picture
Cash in: Easter - Ones to watch