Walmart, Five Below Buyers Receiving Confectionery Leadership Awards

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Washington — Melody Phan Rich, senior buying manager, seasonal, for Walmart, Inc. and Five Below, Inc.’s Senior Buyer Michael Smull are the recipients of the 2020 Confectionery Leadership Awards, presented by NCA and Candy & Snack TODAY. The awards will be presented during the NCA State of the Industry Conference, taking place March 1 to 3 in Boca Raton, FL. 

“Turning an innovative new confectionery product into a consumer favorite would be impossible without the hard work and leadership of our dedicated retail partners,” says John Downs, NCA president & CEO. “The leadership that Melody and Michael have shown in the confectionery category should serve as an example to those looking to continuously impress their shoppers and build partnerships within the confectionery industry.”

Melody Phan Rich, senior buyer, seasonal, Walmart, Inc. For the past six years Phan Rich has managed seasonal candy for Walmart, demonstrating a talent for bringing stakeholders together from across large retailers to create candy moments around holidays, NCA reports. Her tireless efforts have made the mass retailer a unique destination during critical seasonal periods. 

“Any piece of candy you eat has some sort of emotion or memory tied to it that brings back those happy feelings,” says Phan Rich. “Not many other categories out there have that happy connection.”

Five Below’s category success can be hinged to Smull’s exuberant passion for confections and his ceaseless encouragement of innovation, the Association reports. 

 Smull Michael FiveBelowThe buyer, who has a knack for pinpointing trends that excite younger shoppers, says: “Consumers associate candy with milestones of family and life. They link brands and products to life experiences and have emotional attachments to specific products, and that is a lot of responsibility as a buyer. It’s fun to be part of something that brings such joy to people.”

The Confectionery Leadership Awards were established in 2011 by NCA and Candy & Snack TODAY to recognize outstanding retailers and wholesalers for their effective customer marketing, shopper-driven shelving practices and promotion of new items.