The confectionery companies are already gearing up for the Easter season with new product launches and multi-million pound media pushes for a slice of the Spring Confectionery season worth £506m this year and growing 7.7% year on year, says Nestle Confectionery, but what should retailers do, especially the independents, to harvest a share of this great opportunity?

Easter is the second largest confectionery season after Christmas, says Mondelez International, and with the average person spending £17 on chocolate, confectionery is the most important category in store. This presents a great opportunity for retailers that stock the right range to meet the needs of the Easter customer, which also takes in the three-week run up to include Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

It scarcely goes without saying that retailers must have key popular lines on their shelves and these should include Cadbury mini eggs and crème eggs, the number one and two Easter SKUs, says Delia Lendais-Metral, Mondelez’s Brand Manager for Easter. But Easter shopping missions are changing. Smaller shopping trips, for example, grew 32% in 2019, while sales of Easter confectionery, bought as part of the main shopping trip, were down 46%. This means that there is a great opportunity for smaller stores to take advantage of seasonal sales.

Key factors in achieving that are 1) Timing, 2) Ranging and 3) Display. On timing, advises Delia, planning ahead is even more crucial in a shorter season. On ranging there should be focus on shoppers’ favourites to drive the category with NPD playing a role in creating excitement. On display, secondary sites along with strong Easter-focussed aisles or fixtures are key. Mondelez advises retailers to split seasonal sales into three phases to enable them to stock the right range at the right time. These could be classified as Fast Start, Momentum and Gifting Finish. Fast start is about ensuring you are ready for shoppers looking for treat products for themselves. In 2019 this accounted for 12% of the season. After Valentine’s Day on February 14 retailers should look to build momentum and focus attention on shoppers looking for products to share with family. This part of the market absorbed 31% of seasonal sales. Finally, after Mother’s Day on March 22 and in the final run up to Easter on April 12, retailers should cater for the gifting finish as shoppers look for products to give to family and friends. In 2019 this final third part of the season accounted for 56% of sales.

The three Easter events understandably have different trends driving them. According to Levi Boorer, Customer Development Director at Ferrero UK & Ireland, the big shift in the Valentine’s Day market is into in-home eating owing to consumer confidence. Some 37% of people made a special meal at home for the day this year and far fewer people went out for a meal, at just 24%. Coupled with this, of all Spring occasions Valentine’s Day tends to be the most last-minute, so retailers should be brave to be big and bold in the final week before the occasion to yield the most success. Make sure you are capitalising on those last-minute impulse purchases, with linked deals across various categories. Dine-in-for-two meal offers work really well, especially when they are accompanied with chocolate gifting options, wine and flowers. In fact, 40% of baskets in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day included chocolate and confectionery.

Mother’s Day has certainly evolved over the years, with just over three quarters of shoppers celebrating the occasion in some way this year and the average shopper buying 2.8 Mother’s Day cards. We are seeing a trend, says Mr Boorer, where dads, particularly with young children or newborns, are spending above average on their spouses with Mother’s day gifts. Parents with children aged 0 to 4 years old spend on average £8.30 more. In addition, 57% of mothers say they received Mother’s Day gifts from non-family members. The biggest opportunity for retailers in the lead up to Mother’s Day is the ‘special meal at home occasion,’ including breakfast in bed. So make sure you are providing inspiration in store to convert impulse sales.

Easter was worth an extra £397m versus the previous three weeks in 2019. Spend in the first six weeks leading up to Easter was higher compared with 2018 owing to the lateness of the event so the final two weeks played less of a role. This is likely to be quite different in 2020, when Easter falls nine trading days earlier. The 2019 heat wave also had a real impact on shoppers purchasing habits, resulting in the total Easter category decline versus 2018.

Looking to next year, Ferrero expects to see shoppers planning in advance and being more considered in preparing their purchases for Mother’s Day and Easter this year. “We would therefore encourage retailers to stock up early to make sure they meet the demand for those shoppers looking to purchase in advance,” says Mr Boorer.

On advice to independent retailers, they should ensure that their best sellers take priority in their ranging decisions. Packs that sell all year round but are a favourite with shoppers over the three occasions will be the key to success. “We would also ask retailers to think twice before stocking high cost/highly promoted lines that may cause a headache after the season.”

Convenience stores have the upper hand over multiples in their connection to their local community. It is therefore important that they create as much excitement in the lead-up to the Spring occasions, and look out for opportunities that collaborate with suppliers. In-store activations will not only help translate into sales but bring in new shoppers. To help retailers choose the best place to merchandise the seasonal lines, Ferrero will be offering a selection of point-of-sale material that can be ordered via its trade hub: www.yourperfectstore.co.uk

Advice from Mars Wrigley UK’s Chirag Shah, Chief Easter Officer, is that Easter will be 10 days shorter than in 2019 so retailers need to prioritise the most relevant products throughout the Spring season to maximise sales. Having a fast start and strong finish will be key to seasonal success. Retailers could also boost sales by tapping into the established ritual of an outdoor egg hunt when Spring weather arrives. And one should not forget that offspring from Valentine’s

Day, namely Galentine’s Day, a celebration of female friendship recognised on February 13. And don’t forget flowers which is the most popular gift for Mother’s Day, followed by chocolate as the second most popular, with 23% of sales happening the day before the event.

Where would Easter be without its bunnies, especially the chocolate kind. Nestle Confectionery is set to bring fun and innovation to the Easter category with its new Spring 2020 range from its family favourites, SMARTIES. These will include five fun character bunnies with different colours and names. Each bunny comprises a chocolate shell with Smarties inside.

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