We’re no fuddy-duddies here at Convenience Store magazine, but there are times when we have to say “it’s not like it used to be” and Easter is definitely one of those times.
The Cadbury Creme Egg ads begin airing as soon as the new year starts and our social media pages are littered with retailers who are displaying Easter produce in December to get the jump on the competition and start consumers thinking about the season as soon as the tinsel comes down.
Of course, like everyone else we just have to get over it and accept that Easter is too important a part of the retail calendar to risk not planing ahead for, and that getting stock spot-on should be a priority.
Yorkshire Costcutter retailer Satminder Deo started selling large eggs once the Valentine’s Day rush was over, hoping to replicate the successful Easter he saw last year, selling out of eggs.
Tips for driving Easter sales
● Know the reasons that your customers buy Easter confectionery, who/what for and how much they wish to spend
● Display early and communicate the reasons to buy, such as egg hunt ideas and token Easter gifts
● Be cautious with branded eggs - avoid a price war
● Take the time to make the most of your display - be creative in your merchandising to attact attention
● Manage your stock well, topping up from a cash and carry when required
● Remember pick and mix.
“We’d been selling Easter eggs at the point of entrance since February, so people knew they could buy from us,” Satminder says. “Although they sold slowly in the build up to Easter, they’d all sold out by the Saturday of the Easter weekend, which is the perfect timing for it. The fact it was a late Easter also helped as it gave us a bit more time. This year is early, but I still think the end of February is the right time to start putting out the large eggs.”
Off to an early start
Gaz Bains of Select & Save in Coventry also starts early. “We had our eggs out at the beginning of February as this helps create awareness among customers that we have good availability, although we always sell most of our eggs on the last three days of Easter with none left Easter day.”
Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley says timing is everything in such a key season and urges retailers to think ahead rather than being reactive.
“While Easter continues to be a tricky time for many smaller retailers, it is quite clearly an ongoing opportunity for additional profits and careful range planning can maximise the potential of this important spring season,” he says.
Elizabeth Shaw product manager Hayley Coggins says that retailers shouldn’t panic if eggs don’t sell out straight away. “Easter, like Christmas, is of fundamental importance for the convenience sector,” she says. “Being a key time for spending time with families, people now work longer hours and don’t have time to go to the nearest major supermarket, so the c-stores can cash in on last-minute purchases.
“This is a great opportunity for convenience retailers to drive exponential growth and means they need to ensure they stock a range of Easter lines, from cost effective to premium, which appeal to a wider audience and offer a point of difference to the multiples.
“It is important for stores to provide a range of eggs at different price points, to ensure all consumer needs are met. Consumers might not buy larger eggs right away, but it is important for them to know that their favourite brand is in the store, ready for when they want to make that purchase.”
Taking on the big boys
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Easter sales and not mention the multiples. Economies of scale mean that the big supermarkets can undercut almost any price an independent retailer can offer, making it difficult for a small store to beat them on value. Summerley suggests that they don’t even try.
“The signs are that the supermarkets will once again fight hard over the core branded egg range, using many products as loss leaders to get families in store for their Easter grocery shopping,” he says. “We would advise smaller retailers to focus only on premium, larger eggs if looking at branded Easter products, or eggs that the supermarkets are not stocking.”
Sunder Sandher of One Stop in Leamington Spa says he had a successful Easter last year when he stocked some top-of-the-line eggs for those customers looking to splash out. “We’re finding that premium eggs are increasing in sales every year,” he says. “Special treat eggs offer better margin and less competition, and we’ve managed to sell some eggs that cost above £10.”
Gaz agrees that the market is turning premium. “Customers are not always concerned about low prices, and because supermarkets regularly sell out towards the end of Easter, this is a great time to premium price the eggs. We sold more than 100 in three days.”
Coggins agrees with retailers on the importance of having a premium offering. “A lot of consumers these days are on a budget, yet when it comes to Easter they put aside a set amount for Easter gifts,” she says.
“Convenience stores need to bear this in mind when planning their Easter stock. With so many major multiples now selling value lines, there is an opportunity for the convenience trade to sell premium lines which will deliver a higher margin for them.
“So ensuring that they have a range of eggs on offer that many would find in the multiples, yet also offering something extra, perhaps a quality or more premium range, would benefit them.”
Mondelez International trade communications manager Susan Nash sets out a timeline for retailers when it comes to Easter. “For a successful 2015, retailers should stock up early with self-eat products to ensure that they get off to a fast start in this shorter season, followed by a focus on family sharing products to drive momentum through the season, and end the season by maximising gifting for top-up shopping in the final three weeks,” she says.
She believes each segment of the Easter season is important to independent retailers and should be given the attention it needs. “Self-eat at Easter is all about offering an exciting and different treat in the run-up to the big day and is the most important sub-category for the channel to focus on,” says Nash. “Cadbury Creme Egg is the number-one countline at Easter and had a fantastic season in 2014. With a high-profile TV and outdoor campaign seen by 70% of the population and supported by impactful POS material, the brand grew 20% in value sales across singles and multipacks and grew overall brand value to £50m.”
This focus on Cadbury Creme Egg has meant that the brand has launched a £3m marketing investment running until April, including TV, digital, PR, in-store and outdoor activity. Nash says a product of this importance is key to the season and gets customers talking and, more importantly, buying.
“Selling seasonal products is a great way to drive excitement in store and generate incremental sales. With our Seasons Made Simple initiative, we recommend a tight self-eat range, and retailers can boost this with branded POS to highlight key products to customers and make them easy to buy.
The gifting sector is a big part of the Easter season, according to Nash. “Gifting accounts for 62% of value sales at Easter, with 37% dedicated to kids’ gifting and 25% to adults,” she says.
Nash urges retailers to stick to stocking the brands that consumers trust the most. “Mondelez International is the number one manufacturer in shell eggs, and Cadbury brands accounted for £7.9m of total category growth of £21m,” she says.
“Cadbury Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations was the number one NPD in shell eggs, worth £5.2m, while Cadbury accounted for seven of the top 10 shell eggs SKUs.”
Hancocks’ Summerley points out that gifting doesn’t have to mean expensive. “The big opportunity for independent retailers lies in low-cost novelty gift items that look attractive, are not made by the main brands, and can offer an interesting point of difference for local shoppers - many of which are eager to find alternatives to standard branded eggs,” he says.
“Just like other occasions throughout the year, we increasingly seek to buy token gifts for children, friends, neighbours, colleagues and more. People buy with their eyes for this purpose and it clearly has to be good value.”
He also advises retailers to think about offering something different come Easter, to create a point of difference from the multiples and pick and mix could fit the bill. “With so many retailers now enjoying pick and mix sales, Easter is an important time of year to theme part of your pick and mix display,” says Summerley. “Leading the wholesale of pick and mix sweets, Hancocks is perfectly placed to advise on some choice Easter pick and mix that sells.”
On the trail of Easter sales
One way of setting yourself apart from the competition is organising an egg hunt this Easter. With some forward planning, you can get families fired up about the Easter season and, of course, make sure the hunt finishes up at your store to ensure some additional sales come Easter Sunday.
And if you can’t organise a hunt, you can certainly stock for one. Hancock’s Jonathan Summerley says: “There is wide appeal for Easter egg hunts and they remain popular over the season, at parties and family gatherings. Small amounts of individually-wrapped Easter-themed chocolate is therefore in demand and will sell successfully if displayed prominently.”
The brand offers a range of products suitable for Easter egg hunts: Easter Bunny Chocolate Lollies, a box of 8x13g individually wrapped bunny shaped lollies (rrp £1); drums of milk chocolate hollow bunny eggs, foil wrapped, weighing 12.5g and retailing at 15p each; Milk Chocolate Egg Hunt Bag containing two varieties of foil wrapped chocolate pieces (rrp £1); and bulk hollow eggs.
● The Easter market has grown 14.3% over the past year and is now worth £365m
● Gifting accounts for 62% of value sales at Easter
● Mondelez International accounts for seven of the top 10 egg skus at Easter
● Kinder Surprise achieved £16.4m-worth of value sales in the January to Easter period of 2014.
Egg-citing times for Creme Eggs
Earlier this year, world events were put on hold when it was announced that Mondelez International was no longer using Cadbury Dairy Milk for the shell of its Cadbury Creme Egg, and that packs of six would be reduced to packs of five.
The drama hit the headlines, while one extremely digruntled consumer set up a website - www.savethecremeegg.co.uk - and an epetitition at change.org in an attempt to get the government to take a break from discussing the economy and healthcare to focus on this burning issue.
Although the petition only fell slightly short of the 5,000 signatures required (it still needed 97 at time of press), Mondelez International did respond to the complaint with this statement from consumer engagement associate Carolyn Basora. “We now sell Cadbury UK Creme Eggs in five-packs because of changes in economic factors, one of which is the cost of the ingredients that make our eggs. The basic ingredients of our Cadbury UK Creme Eggs are the same as they’ve always been - Cadbury milk chocolate and the unique creme centre that we all love. Our Cadbury UK Creme eggs still use Cadbury chocolate, just not Cadbury Dairy Milk.
“We always welcome feedback and comments from our consumers.”
Those behind the petition and website have vowed to continue the fight.
Sweet times for retailers
It doesn’t all have to be about chocolate at Easter. Candy seasonal confectionery has a big part to play in the season and, according to Nielsen data, sales grew by 39% last Easter on the year before.
To help retailers capitalise, Mondelez International has brought one of its top brands to Easter with the launch of new Bassetts Jelly Bunnies.
The company cites the success of Bassetts Jelly Babies, currently worth £24m and the number two brand in candy bags.
The new Bassetts Jelly Bunnies feature the six traditional flavours in Easter-themed bunny moulds.
Bassetts Jelly Bunnies is available in a 190g sharing bag (£1.52 rrp ), in an Easter-themed outer of 12 packs.
It can be easy to focus solely on the kids when deciding on what to stock at Easter, but it’s important to remember that adults like to indulge at this time of year, too.
Elizabeth Shaw product manager Hayley Coggins says retailers should consider stocking lines that might appeal to adults, especially if they are designed to be a last-minute gift.
“Many people entertain at Easter, or go to friends and family to celebrate, therefore stocking chocolate boxes that can be given as a token gift or eaten at a special moment is a great idea,” she says.
The company has added several new lines for 2015. “At Elizabeth Shaw we have a range of chocolates that are ideal for when you entertain, such as the new Dark Chocolate Mint Thins. These mint chocolates are perfect when served with an after-meal coffee.”
Coggins also advises retailers to think about their Easter displays, with the aim of making them as impactful as possible to entice consumers into the category.
Cross-merchandising is another tool retailers should exploit, Coggins points out. “Retailers could consider putting premium adult eggs near wine promotions to help retailers drive incremental sales,” she says.