As we head into the latter half of the Easter season, you will no doubt have sold Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs and Malteaster Bunnies by the bucket load. Sunder Sandher of Londis Headington in Oxfordshire certainly has. “The impulse items are selling well,” he says. “We’ve been selling Mini Eggs since Christmas, and Creme Eggs at two for £1 since January. I’ve got a big hod of Malteaster Bunnies at both of my stores, too.” But while little Easter treats are a winner for c-stores, now is the time to bring out the big guns.

“We have our shell eggs up in February and give them 2m of shelf space,” says Raj Aggarwal of Londis Queens Drive in Wigston, Leicester. “Most people will try to go to the supermarket for eggs in the run-up to Easter, rather than buy them on a top-up shop. But if they can’t get what they want, then they’ll think ‘where did I see those eggs?’ and they’ll come back here to buy them.”

Cater for Easter get-togethers

Easter marks a time when family and friends come together - and tea and cake are usually on the menu.

Coppenrath & Wiese UK is expecting to see an uplift in sales of its frozen cakes during the period. “In recent years more than 20 million consumers have travelled to see friends and family over the Easter weekend,” says commercial manager Bernard Maher.

The firm’s new 350g Apple Walnut Cake serves six and is sold in cases of six, rrp £2.50.

The Easter cake market grew 11.7% in 2013, according to Premier Foods, which owns the top three branded products Cadbury Mini Eggs Nest Cakes, Mini Egg Cakes and Mr Kipling Lemon Fancies.

“Small cakes account for two-thirds of Easter sales and are driving growth overall as shoppers are more willing to buy treats during seasonal occasions,” says Darryl Curtis, Premier Foods marketing controller, seasonal cakes.

Cadbury Cakes has introduced a new flavour to its £47m Mini Rolls range this year. “New choc orange Mini Roll (rrp £1) will include a superhero-themed packaging design, and will be suitable for the build up to Easter and beyond,” says Curtis.

“Cadbury Lemon Cake Bars (rrp £1) will also be undergoing a packaging redesign, featuring a subtle Easter focus in order to extend its relevance before, during and after Easter.”

Meanwhile, Roberts Bakery will be meeting the demand for tradition with hot cross buns. The firm is releasing hot cross buns (rrp £1) and luxury hot cross buns (rrp £1.29) which contain extra fruit.

“To make the most of the Easter opportunity convenience store owners should aim to group items together under an Easter theme to give the consumer everything they need in the one place,” says Roberts Bakery commercial director Tim Wild.

Ammo Bhdaal of Spar Auckley in Doncaster concurs that displaying shell eggs early is the key to success. “We’ve taken learnings from Christmas and made sure we put our Easter stock out early. We have a 3m wall area that we display our Easter range in once our Christmas stuff has been taken down. We have a cross-section of small, medium and premium shell eggs priced at £10 or £15. They don’t sell straight away; they are just there to raise awareness that we stock shell eggs.”

Rather than dedicate an entire fixture to shell eggs, Sunder prefers to make use of existing space. “By displaying shell eggs on my chillers early it shows customers that we stock shell eggs and doesn’t take up any shelf space.”

Gary Bilbrough of Nisa Toddington, Bedfordshire, also opts to spread out his shell egg offering. “I have 5m of chillers and 3m of shelving above the freezers and I stack eggs there so that people can see we have them - it’s really about raising awareness that we stock them,” he says. “We stock some medium-sized Cadbury and Mars shell eggs. But we also do a lot of specialised eggs, such as Green & Black’s and the giant Cadbury eggs that cost £10 or £11. We’ll make a 25% margin on them.”

Sunder is also able to sell luxury eggs. “I stock a few medium-sized eggs, but the bulk of my eggs are premium: Lindt and Thorntons eggs priced at £10, £15 and £20. They offer a point of difference from the competition, and whereas the medium-sized branded eggs don’t tend to sell until the last minute, the premium eggs and novelty Easter gifting items are bought in advance as people purchase them with someone special in mind, such as a partner or grandparent.”

Demand for luxury eggs is equally strong at Barns Green Village Stores in West Sussex. “We have some mid-range eggs for distress purchases,” says owner David Heritage, “but we’ll get more premium eggs, such as Green & Black’s and Thorntons, which are priced at about £8. Husbands and wives tend to buy them for each other.”

Thorntons commercial director Phil Sargison acknowledges the trend towards premium shell eggs. “As customers tire of promoted medium eggs, they are trading up into more giftworthy special eggs from more premium brands.” The firm is reintroducing the banoffee pie variant to its Dessert Eggs, along with new flavours fudge brownie & raspberry cheesecake (rrp £14.99). “These highly decorated eggs are beautiful to look at and add a point of difference,” he says.

Another firm boasting new premium lines for Easter 2014 is Kinnerton Confectionery, which is bringing well-known luxury ice cream brands to the shell egg market. The Magnum shell egg is priced at £8 and comes with three Magnum chocolate bars made using Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa and Madagascan vanilla. Meanwhile, the Cornetto Egg (rrp £8) comes with four Cornetto vanilla chocolatey cones topped with toasted hazelnut sprinkles and milk chocolate drops.

Raj has certainly noticed his customers trading up their egg purchases and is stocking up on key premium brands this Easter. “I stock all the premium eggs, such as Ferrero, Thorntons and the Cadbury luxury eggs. They can cost anything up to £20 and you’re making up to between 15% and 20% margins. Men like to buy them for their wives.”

He is confident that they will sell following their runaway success last year. “By Good Friday, we had two bays of Easter eggs and were panicking we’d have them left over. But we sold every single one. I even ended up buying more from another store!”

Over at Wealdon Stores in Cuckfield, West Sussex, owner Janine Watts is more wary of being left with excess stock and prefers to wait till six weeks before Easter to display her shell eggs. “We don’t buy many shell eggs for fear of not selling them,” she says. “We buy them individually, rather than by the caseload. We won’t end up selling ours until Easter weekend, when people are making distress purchases.”

Nevertheless, she has still carved out a USP during Easter. “I try to stock items you won’t see in the supermarkets. Last year we had little tin buckets with eggs in from Costco, which sold well. Infinity Foods do a good premium range, too, so we’ll buy some items from them. It’s good to shop around and get something different.”

Unusual Easter gifts have caught David’s eye, too. “We always try to get different things, such as campervans with Easter eggs and bunny toys with an egg cup. Grandparents tend to buy the novelty items.”

Novelty items also hit the mark at Gary’s store. He claims that sales of Nestlé’s Smarties Hen House soared. “It did really well for us last year as it’s just something a bit different,” he says.

Bring out the boxed chocolates

While eggs are the first confectionery item to spring to mind during Easter, boxed chocolate is also popular at this time of year. “Easter 2014 should be another strong period and retailers are advised to give boxed chocolates a sizeable share of shelf space to accelerate sales during this period,” asserts Storck UK sales director Andy Mutton.

“Bendicks After Dinner Mints offer 
a special point of difference in boxed chocolates with their strong mint profile, aligned to the after-meal occasion which is prominent at Easter.”

Ferrero Rocher enjoyed a strong Easter in 2013, thanks to high demand for boxed chocolate. “Ferrero’s performance was exceptional during spring 2013, with sales up 30.7% year on year to £11.3m,” says customer development director Levi Boorer. “Key drivers of growth were the Ferrero Rocher 
16-pack and 24-pack, showing that it’s the all year-round best-sellers which need to be at the heart of the display area during seasonal events.”

In addition to its year-round boxed chocolate offering, the firm has released a Ferrero Rocher Plastic Egg (rrp £5.49) containing 
16 chocolates as an alternative to traditional Easter eggs. “Our seasonal launches are designed to complement our core range and so they should be stocked together on shelf to maximise sales,” adds Boorer.

The company is currently embarking on a multimillion pound marketing campaign, including TV ads, which runs until Easter.

Sunder agrees that novelty items for kids are a good investment. “Last year I was selling some items for £10 each and the parents couldn’t get enough of them!”

One product that may capture retailers’ attention this year is the new Mini Milk shell egg (rrp £6) from Kinnerton Confectionery. Packaged in a novel ice cream van carton, the product contains four Mini Milk chocolate lollipops with whipped centres.

Thorntons’ kids’ range is also set to benefit from the trend towards novelty Easter goods for youngsters. “Our three children’s eggs - Bramble Bunny, Miss Flutterby and Footy Fanatic - make up 47% of all small egg sales in convenience,” says Sargison. “Thorntons’ small egg sales increased by 10%, while novelties increased by 32%, driven by novelty gifts which increased by more than 400% helped by 250g and 80g Bramble Bunnies.”

Building on the success of its themed small eggs, Thorntons is launching the Cupcake Egg and Scooter Egg, each retailing at £2.99, which will broaden the appeal of this category to young adults.

The firm also predicts that the larger milk and white novelty chocolate models from its new Harry Hopalot Easter bunny range (rrp £8) will be in demand. “Harry Hopalot will be supported by freestanding units bringing theatre and excitement to convenience stores,” says Sargison.

But Easter isn’t just a chocolate-selling opportunity, it’s also a chance to engage with your local community. David likes to use the occasion to create some in-store theatre while raising funds for a good cause. “We buy a big egg at the cash & carry for £50 and we raffle it for charity,” he says. “It creates a bit of interest in-store and people like it when we do charity work.”

Janine also carries out charity work in-store at Easter. “We run an Easter raffle to raise funds for The National Blind Children’s Society. They send us a cuddly bunny, which we’ll display on the counter,” she explains. “Customers then pay £1 to guess where the bunny came from and the winner wins the toy.”

At Nisa Local Toddington, Gary provides the local school with a big Easter egg to raffle off, and gives flowers to the local church. “The church hosts a daffodil festival so we’ll donate to that. They decorate the church with the flowers and then sell them after the service.” He also has some fun projects in mind for younger members of the community. “I’m planning to run a ‘decorate a boiled egg shell’ competition and an Easter bonnet competition for 2014.”

So if you want to fully embrace the season, why not offer a point of difference from the multiples by engaging with your community and sourcing novelty and premium products. Says Hancocks purchasing director Jonathan Summerley: “Supermarkets have continued to dominate the competitive mainstream egg market so it is left for savvy retailers to carve out their opportunities around this.”

IN BRIEF

Teasers goes large for Easter

After a successful launch into the countline and tablet market last year, Mars is introducing the Teasers brand to its Easter portfolio with a £5.69 large egg. The firm is confident that retailers can look forward to a fruitful season this year. “With Easter falling towards the end of April, retailers have the chance to sell gifts and treats over an extended period,” says Nicola Lacey, central sales director, Mars Chocolate UK.

Eggs with a touch of class

Elizabeth Shaw is expanding its Easter egg offering for 2014 with a Large Flute Selection Egg, which combines a milk chocolate egg with two full-size boxes of the dark chocolate orange and milk amaretto flutes (rrp £10). “If you are buying an Easter egg for a loved one, you want to be certain that it is from a brand you trust, especially as it is likely you will be paying a premium for something that little bit special,” says md Karen Crawford.

The Kinder Bunny hops to it

Ferrero has given the Kinder Surprise Bunny (rrp £2.50) a makeover, with a new shape and more appealing features. Kinder has also added new Kinder Surprise Pink and Blue Easter eggs this spring. The 100g Easter eggs (rrp £5.49) contain Polly Pocket and Batman toys.

Ice cream for Easter

The countertop isn’t the only place retailers will be displaying the Cadbury Creme Egg brand this year. R&R has launched a limited-edition Cadbury Creme Egg Mini Cone, which retails at £2.49 for eight cones, and the 480ml Creme Egg Tub (rrp £3).