Cleveland — By thinking in a manner similar to consumers shopping during seasonal periods, retailers can make the most out of the highest spending periods of the year, according to Larry Wilson, NCA vice-president of customer relations.
This includes considering what shoppers will want for the occasions, how to simplify decisions by offering new ideas and helping them meet their needs quickly by streamlining the shopping experience.
“Operationally, retailers need to think big,” Wilson says. “Display seasonal items prominently, think adjacencies and complementary categories, use creativity and have fun to attract shoppers and drive shopping basket rings.”
With regard to the coming Halloween holiday, recent custom NCA research indicates personal preferences, price, unique seasonal classics, national and regional brands, and preferences of family and friends are the leading influences for trick or treat purchase decisions. Each of these elements were cited by at least 70 percent of the 1,400 survey respondents as having “some or very much an influence” on buying choices.
Wilson explains that by executing features and displays with personal and family favorites, unique and fun seasonal items and placing emphasis on a wide variety of popular regional brands are key to making the most of shoppers stocking up for the season.
To make further gains in seasonal sales, he says to start joint business planning with manufacturers and brokers early, as it leads to success that is mutually beneficial. “Working collaboratively with candymakers and brokers to design solutions for seasonal celebrations is key, as helping you be successful ensures their success,” Wilson explains.
Think about shopping behaviors and purchase patterns, as well as opportunities for cross-category purchases, as if you were pushing the shopping cart and consider how your family might be celebrating the season and what products you would need. “If planning involves meeting needs for those occasions, you’ll become known as the place shoppers can rely on during the key seasons,” Wilson adds.
He notes that availability of products is essential, which places added importance on multiple in-store displays to trigger reminders for shoppers.
Finally, he says that seeing the season all the way through by keeping items in stock and merchandising vehicles on display will help capture last minute purchase occasion, particularly for holidays such as Valentine’s Day.
Concerning when to start seasonal merchandising, early is nearly always better, especially for holiday items that involve special packaging, novelty and gifting products that require longer lead times, according to Wilson. “It ensures product availability, generates early seasonal excitement and extends selling seasons for the shoppers,” he explains.
Halloween merchandising begins when the school year starts, while Christmas items are displayed immediately following Halloween, according to Wilson. New Year’s kicks off merchandising for Valentine’s Day and the end of the February holiday signals the transition into merchandising Easter products.
One thing retailers should avoid is relying solely on the previous year’s sales history to inform seasonal planning. “If you’re seasonal execution was very strong then perhaps it’s a safer bet to rely on history,” he says, continuing: “Yet, often retailers can mistake poor execution in the prior year for poor sales potential. While history can serve as a guide, it’s important to work with manufacturers and brokers to clarify what worked and why.”
He also says retailers need to balance operational views with how shoppers view seasonal merchandising, giving as an example calendar variations and merchandising schedules. “If Halloween falls on Thursday, as it did this year, and your store normally changes out endcap displays on Wednesday, avoid taking down your Halloween merchandising on the normal display rotation. Keep it up that extra day to capture last minute shopping as it can make a major difference in your seasonal profitability.”
For more information on holiday sales, including seasonal summaries and consumption reviews, visit the Sweet Insights section on candyusa.com. In addition, Wilson will be presenting a recap of the Halloween sales results during a webinar on December 4