HALLOWEEN CANDY SALES INCREASED

Despite shipping problems with Hershey's products during the second quarter of 1999, overall Halloween candy sales increased, according to data from the National Confectioners Assoc., McLean, Va.Susan Fussell, manager of communications at NCA, said the organization anticipated sales of $1.787 billion, and were surprised when it topped $1.896 billion. "It was a strong Halloween, even with the problems,"

Despite shipping problems with Hershey's products during the second quarter of 1999, overall Halloween candy sales increased, according to data from the National Confectioners Assoc., McLean, Va.

Susan Fussell, manager of communications at NCA, said the organization anticipated sales of $1.787 billion, and were surprised when it topped $1.896 billion. "It was a strong Halloween, even with the problems," she said.

She attributed the reason for the unexpected increase to the fact that Halloween fell on a Sunday. "Americans began celebrating on Friday with school parties, then continued through the weekend with parties in the home. Then, of course, that was followed by the traditional trick-or-treating," Fussell explained.

She further reasoned that more adults are celebrating with costume parties. "It's becoming a holiday for families and adults, not just kids," she added.

Most supermarket retailers realized an increase in sales. Monty Rainwater, candy buyer at Whitco Foods, Visalia, Calif., said he had good sell-through. In fact, "it was one of our better years," he added. "It was because we went with more national brands on our pallet and bulk displays," Rainwater said, explaining that in 1998 he had some oddball brands that didn't move as well.

Similarly, Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas, experienced a hopping Halloween. "Halloween candy sell-through in 1999 was very good. We are conservative in our estimations for seasonal candy and as a result, we usually have good sales," explained Lynett McCoy, candy buyer.

She added that unlike other grocery chains, such as Laurel Grocery Co. and Fleming Cos., she did not have a problem with her Hershey's shipments.

"Since our Halloween candy orders were in place with Hershey in late April and we received our Halloween candy prior to Labor Day, we experienced very few shortages or late shipments associated with their system changeover," McCoy said. "It was to our advantage during the holidays that we book our orders and deliveries early," she added.

Suppliers such as Laurel Grocery Co. and Fleming were not so lucky.

"Our sales were flat," said Russell Sewell, category manager at London, Ky.-based Laurel Grocery Co. His company encountered delays in shipping, product cuts and incorrect quantities.

Fleming, anticipating a problem, brought in extra M&M/Mars product to cover any losses. "Halloween and Christmas were the worst," said Rich Ehrhart, category manager at Fleming, based in Oklahoma City. "The lead time [for Hershey's] is down to seven days, but it's more like 14. It was at more like 45," he said.

He said he was able to communicate and keep his stores abreast of the changes through the Internet and newsletters where he shared other options such as heavier mixes of M&M/Mars in lieu of the expected Hershey's products.

Overall, however, he said his sales were fine because the stores had such good sell-through and few returns.

In other Halloween candy news, Publix Supermarkets, Lakeland, Fla., made a move that Whitco Foods' Rainwater called "highly unusual." The chain did not promote Halloween candy this year. A company spokesman declined to comment. Other retailers polled by SN had not heard about Publix' decision, while NCA's Fussell had heard something about it, but did not know the outcome.