There are just two and a half months until Easter and shoppers are about to ramp up their purchases. Andrew Don reports on the seasonal confectionery and gift opportunities for wholesalers
The major supermarkets’ race to the bottom – underpinned by discounters Aldi and Lidl’s cheap deals – breeds a reluctance from wholesalers to fully commit to Easter chocolate gifting.
Equally, independent retailers loathe paying wholesale prices for products that can sometimes be bought cheaper per unit from a local supermarket or pound shop.
Simon Lunn, who owns Simply Fresh in Weare, Somerset, says: “I’ve noticed Terry’s Chocolate Orange in some places for 50p each. I can’t buy them wholesale for 50p.”
The major manufacturers make a compelling case for wholesalers to make the most of the seasonal opportunities on offer, however.
Mother’s Day and Easter fall later in 2019, extending the trading period and giving a greater window for seasonal sales.
Chirag Shah, seasonal brand manager at Mars Wrigley Confectionery, says up to 300 million product units are sold from January to Easter, making it one of the most important times of the year for chocolate sales.
Mondelez International adds that Easter is all about creating memories with loved ones through “treats and traditions”. It references a survey One Poll carried out last year among 2,000 parents with children aged up to 16, which found the top activities for consumers at Easter in order of preference are eating chocolate, seeing friends and family, gifting chocolate and going on egg hunts.
It is important for wholesalers to respond to buying patterns at this time of year. As Victoria Gell, Mondelez regional seasonal brand manager, points out, consumers often leave it to the last minute to buy their Easter chocolate gifts.
Nielsen data shows half of sales occur in the final three weeks, making it particularly important for wholesalers to remain stocked up on gifting chocolate as the season draws to a close.
“Wholesalers should be aware that shopper decisions are based on whether a product is from a recognised brand, whether it is in either a favourite or premium format, whether the price is right and how special the packaging appears,” Gell says.
Mondelez brand manager Delia Metral says timing is crucial for Easter sales success. “Core seasonal single-serves should be stocked all season in order to maximise the opportunity,” she recommends.
From mid-February to March, wholesalers should stock family-sharing and gifting lines and shell eggs as retailers will be looking to stock these in their store in the last three weeks before Easter.
Jodie Wood, business unit controller at Ferrero, says: “We know the six weeks leading up to Easter are crucial for spring purchases, so wholesalers should place an even greater focus on the occasion ahead of this period.”
Metral also suggests wholesalers make the most of manufacturers’ point-of-sale material to create visually strong displays that will help inspire retailers and drive sales.
“It is also important to stock products that will have significant media investment behind them for the season,” she adds.
Family, friends and formats
Wood points to the large number of people who say spending time together at Easter is important to them, so it will be no surprise that chocolate gifting is a significant part of the celebration with £210m spent in total for this purpose.
This is where sharing comes into its own, with products such as Kinder Choco Bons, which she says is designed to appeal to the whole family. Sharing and gifting products such as Ferrero’s boxed chocolate range are also important at this time of year, she adds.
Most consumers value quality of chocolate over quantity, Wood claims, and they are more willing to spend more on premium products. She says: “Confectionery is one of the few categories where consumers are willing to trade up to more premium treats. Ferrero’s seasonal lines from Raffaello, Ferrero Rocher and Thorntons play into this consumer need by offering shoppers an assortment of premium and relevant products.”
Nestlé Confectionery customer category manager Laura Whitely emphasises that appealing to all occasions for Easter requires a wide range of formats.
Impulse bags, for example, are used for home baking and snacking while small Easter eggs are important gift items for the extended family. “Impulse products are key as they signal ‘Easter is here’ to the shopper,” says Whitely.
Retailer feedback collated by Ferrero has found that confectionery is the main category for which they would like wholesalers to give them more support.
Most retailers prefer to stock the bestsellers, and they know what their customers are looking for, so they should be easy to find at their chosen wholesaler.
Wood says the top brands should also be signposted with eye-catching point-of-sale material, making it easy for retailers to find what they need in the depot.
The importance of having a strong digital presence continues to grow, too, Wood stresses. “The speed of evolution in this sector is fast, and we need to ensure we are listening to our customers’ needs and adapting our tools,” she says.
Ferrero launched its own trade digital platform, Your Perfect Store, in 2017, which provides retailers with advice on making the most of seasons and festivals with planograms and other useful information. She says that while it targets retailers directly, it helps to drive sales and grow the category, which is also to the benefit of wholesalers.
“I’m hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year when everyone was searching for the white Cadbury’s Creme Egg and unwrapped them on-shelf. People generally stock too many lines. For us, there are only two products we really want at Easter – Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs. They are the only ones we sell in volume.”
“I know the cash and carries don’t want to be left with unwanted eggs, but they are out of stock going into a week before Easter. The way we work is we’re all about convenience, the last-minute shop, and that’s where we don’t get the support.”
“Wholesalers don’t always provide what we need at the right price. Sometimes I can get products cheaper from supermarkets than through my wholesaler. I appreciate I’m not getting the credit, but I’ll be making a better margin on it.”
“The main issue is we have to pre-order a lot of things. You tend to forget what you’ve ordered as well by the time it comes. We don’t get left with a lot of stock after Easter. We normally manage to clear everything.”
1. Stock up – Keep well stocked until the last possible moment. Convenience retailing does well with distress purchases, so retailers will want a reliable supply.
2. Be impulsive – Most Easter confectionery sales come from the impulse category, so wholesalers should ensure they stock a range of Easter impulse products throughout the festive season.
3. Give choice – Help retailers appeal to every kind of shopper with a range of prices and fulfil a variety of shopping missions, whether for sharing, snacking, a special treat, celebratory or gifting.
4. Make your mark – In-depot displays and point-of-sale material are crucial to generating sales. Retailers are shoppers just like the public and great displays influence their purchasing decisions.
5. Pricing is key – Independents need to make a healthy margin and need to compete in communities.
“We have heard from retailers that confectionery is the main category that they would like more support on. While we are working on the products and promotional assets to benefit retailers in store, wholesalers can provide additional support to help drive sales directly.
“Because the confectionery category is so diverse, with many brands for retailers to choose from, it can be difficult for a retailer to know where to start when faced with the options when in a depot.
“Bestsellers should be easy to locate in depot, and brand blocking should be used so retailers can grab what they are looking for quickly and easily.”