Easter makes a comeback

While Christmas remains unrivalled when it comes to boosting turnover, there are several other significant dates in the first half of the year which can adds peaks to the confectionery sales chart when many other categories are in the doldrums.

Easter is the most obvious example, but Dick Brittle, purchasing director of confectionery specialist Hancocks, says Mothering Sunday and even Father’s Day should not be overlooked.
“We get a good uplift for Mothering Sunday, mainly for boxed chocolates, so we always make sure we have a good display,” he says, “and that effect will last with boxed chocolates all the way through to Easter.” Father’s Day has not been such a big occasion in previous years, but Brittle has a hunch that the World Cup could help it take off this year. “With Father’s Day on June 18 and the World Cup starting on June 9, the two could get mixed together with much more gifting,” he says.

But Easter is still the second biggest event after Christmas for the impulse sector, even though massive discounting by the supermarkets has wiped out value in some areas. Brittle says Easter used to almost rival Christmas in importance for Hancocks, but the supermarkets got involved in a big way six or seven years ago and it has diminished in importance. Easter sales in the impulse sector were down 25% this year compared with 2004 mainly due to the supermarkets’ deep discounts on shell eggs, but sales were also hit by the shorter selling period because Easter Sunday occurred earlier in the year than normal on March 27. Brittle says: “The impulse sector got absolutely slaughtered this year. The supermarkets came up with some crazy prices, and they did it the year before, and the year before that too, and this year impulse just pulled out.”

Despite this year’s poor figures Brittle predicts that Easter could make a comeback in impulse in 2006. “The supermarkets want to make money, but even they can’t make anything at the prices they were selling at. Also kids were getting more and more Easter eggs and they were losing their significance as a gift.” As a result he expects the supermarkets to pull back this year and this could present a renewed opportunity for the impulse sector, although he says wholesalers and retailers will have to be more imaginative.

“Consumers are going to be looking for novelty and something more ‘gifty’,” he says. “Rather than teenage eggs, retailers should be stocking something a bit different.”

Hancocks will be putting up big displays to introduce some theatre into the event and Brittle says he hopes this inspires retailers to do the same. For retailers who really want to push the boat out Hancocks will even be offering £22 big chocolate bunnies and £99 Easter eggs. Brittle says: “They would make a great centrepiece to a display and we expect retailers will find they are bought as prizes for raffles or by employers looking to reward staff.” At the other end of the spectrum pick ‘n’ mix and small novelty items are also good sellers for children’s treats or Easter egg hunts.

All the producers agree filled eggs are a growth area and retailers should be stocking them. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs is the acknowledged leader in this field with Cadbury Trebor Bassett claiming a 78% market share in the category, but Nestlé Rowntree, with its Double Creme filled egg, and Masterfoods, with its Mars Egg and Galaxy Chocolate Caramel Temptations, have launched competitors.

Cadbury will be supporting Creme Eggs with a multi-media advertising campaign including TV ads while Masterfoods will be backing its offer with new counter top units for retailers and POS material for cash and carries to aid standout. Nestlé will be introduced a mixed outer of 72 filled eggs with 28 each of the Double Cream, Smarties and Milky Bar varieties, with an RRP of £27.36. It is intended to reduce the outlay for retailers who would otherwise have to pay £54.72 at RRP to buy an outer of each variety.

Nicky-Priya Mehndiratta, Masterfoods occasions trade marketing executive, says filled eggs sales climb in early January and maintain through to Easter, so retailers should ensure they begin stocking them as soon as the new year begins.
Premium Easter eggs were another success story in an otherwise depressed market last Easter and should also offer a good sales opportunity next year, according to producers.

Last year Cadbury launched its Easter Egg Delight, and says its premium positioning enabled retailers to maintain full price and margin values. This year it has added a £4.99 price point to the £6.99 and £9.99 eggs, which it says will encourage more consumers to trade up from shell eggs to a premium product. Cadbury will be backing it with a £4m multi-media advertising campaign.

Masterfoods too has updated its Maltesers Easter eggs with new packaging designed to evoke Easter and will also be introducing its Friends format into the Easter range. The Mars Friends egg features four confectionery singles, Mars, Mars Delight, Snickers and Twix bars while the Maltesers Friends egg contains Masterfoods’ leading bite-size varieties, with a full-size bag of Maltesers, White Maltesers, Galaxy Minstrels and Revels.

In its special egg range Nestlé Rowntree is recommending that smaller stores should ensure they stock two eggs with an RRP of £4.99. They are the Milkybar Buckeroo Fun Egg, which includes a Buckeroo game, and the Yorkie Subbuteo fun egg, which comes with a mini Subbuteo kit and a 2006 World Cup wall chart.

For Bendicks, trade marketing manager Andy Morrison comments: “Spring is not just about Easter eggs, its about gifting, and its essential that retailers stock boxed chocolates as well as eggs to maximise sales. Outside of the Easter period, key gifting events such as Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday, and Father’s Day are helping to drive sales of boxed chocolates.

Therefore for 2006 we have developed an extensive range of premium quality boxed chocolates and Easter eggs, all under the new Bendicks umbrella identity.”

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