BIRTH OF A DESTINATION

CHICAGO -- Candy sales at Jewel Food Stores soared 80% after the retailer changed the program from routine to destination.The huge gains were achieved a year after a category management plan was launched at the Melrose Park, Ill.-based Jewel, a subsidiary of American Stores Co., Salt Lake City, according to Keith Aldridge, national product manager of candy and tobacco for American. Jewel's program

CHICAGO -- Candy sales at Jewel Food Stores soared 80% after the retailer changed the program from routine to destination.

The huge gains were achieved a year after a category management plan was launched at the Melrose Park, Ill.-based Jewel, a subsidiary of American Stores Co., Salt Lake City, according to Keith Aldridge, national product manager of candy and tobacco for American. Jewel's program involved creating an in-line section for the assortment, boosting stockkeeping units by up to 40% and developing a comprehensive promotional plan.

"By changing the category from routine to destination, it put Jewel in the seasonal candy business," Aldridge said in a seminar at the All Candy Expo, held here last month. About 2,600 retail and wholesale confectionery buyers attended the event's premiere, produced by the National Confectioners Association, McLean, Va. Total attendance was 10,000.

"The destination role allowed us to improve assortment and merchandising skills by making a place in the store for seasonal candy throughout the season," Aldridge said.

Before category management, seasonal candy typically would be on endcaps, stacked in front of store, or in the promotional aisle, according to Aldridge. "We didn't concentrate on staying in stock up through the point of a holiday," he added.

American worked with M&M/Mars, Hackettstown, N.J., which the retailer chose as its preferred supplier, to assess the category.

In the assessment stage, Jewel decided what it wanted the category to do; who its competition was (which Jewel determined to be drug stores and mass merchants); and how to target its seasonal consumers.

Next, American looked at merchandising. Jewel formerly merchandised on endcaps. All that changed, and Jewel started allocating 24 to 32 feet in-line in a high-traffic location in store. It also continued off-shelf, auxiliary displays throughout the entire store.

"This let the consumers know they had a new category to shop," Aldridge said.

The retailer then increased its SKUs by 20% for the first season of the program, Valentine's Day. It then increased SKUs by 20% to 40% for the other three seasons -- Easter, Halloween and Christmas.

Through category management, it created a print ad campaign and ran in-store temporary price reductions.

After applying category management principles in Jewel, American launched a similar program in its Lucky stores in California. Lucky noted a 40% to 60% sales increase in the first two seasons, according to Aldridge.

"Our plan is to continue to do category management principles not only in seasonal candy, but also in front-end and in-line programs," Aldridge said.