HAVIN' A SWEET WAVE

Waves of off-season advertising, particularly during the summer, can help retailers sweeten their confection sales.Ingredients for success include creative cross-merchandising, tie-ins to minor holidays and introducing a variety of products -- anything that has the potential to be an event worthy of advertising, said industry consultants.Retailers certainly should put advertising efforts into the

Waves of off-season advertising, particularly during the summer, can help retailers sweeten their confection sales.

Ingredients for success include creative cross-merchandising, tie-ins to minor holidays and introducing a variety of products -- anything that has the potential to be an event worthy of advertising, said industry consultants.

Retailers certainly should put advertising efforts into the primary seasons -- Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day and back-to-school -- but they shouldn't ignore the rest of the year, according to Jan Kitt, marketing consultant to the candy industry at Kitt Consulting Group, Sparta, N.J.

She said retailers should pick an event -- such as Cinco de Mayo, National Candy Day or the Fourth of July -- and plan an advertising promotion around it.

Blair Bell, nonfood and candy buyer at Kienow's Food Stores, Milwaukie, Ore., runs a special newspaper ad for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, when he scheduled an M&M's ad.

"The big holidays are great, but the ones that fall during the summer should not be overlooked," he said.

Among the items Bell plans to promote during the coming months are mini chocolate bars, such as Milky Way, Snickers and Dove. Other popular treats are Skittles and licorice.

"My licorice sales probably triple in the summertime," he added. Gum and mints also do well during the summer, said Paul Kelly, principal at Silvermine Consulting, Westport, Conn. But whichever type of candy is emphasized, the bottom line is to keep the section more visible in off-peak times of the year, he said. "Candy has higher margins than just about anything else in the store. If you can get people down that aisle, why not do it in the middle of May?" Kelly asked.

Some retailers avoid pushing chocolate during the warmer months because consumers tend to stay away from it. But others are developing innovative programs to help keep it in demand. Kienow's Bell said he doesn't let the weather affect his buying. "You've got to promote candy year-round. Every week I have a candy ad whether it's chocolate or nonchocolate. I'm trying to promote the packaged [chocolate] items," he said. "Hopefully, they'll take it home where it's a bit cooler, and they'll eat it there."

One way to ensure chocolate stays cool is to put it in the frozens aisle. Retailers could tout frozen candy bars as a summer beach treat, said Chris Lamb, vice president of category development and customer marketing at Ralston Foods. Ralston Foods is a subsidiary of Ralcorp Holdings, St. Louis.

"Retailers should use creative merchandising and tie-ins that will allow them to capture incremental sales," he said.

Pulling items together to satisfy a theme like the beach, picnics or on-the-go summer snacking helps retailers create exciting ads and promotions, said Tony Stanol, group management director at FCB Advertising, New York. FCB, a unit of True North Communications, Chicago, represents Life Savers Co., Winston-Salem, N.C., which is an operating unit of Nabisco, Parsippany, N.J.

He encouraged retailers to push nonchocolate items in their in-store circulars during the summer because they don't melt, and lend themselves well to on-the-go activities.

What's even better is that most don't have fat. "That's something that people are certainly conscious of during the bikini and swimwear season," Stanol said. Meanwhile, retailers can tie in chocolate and nonchocolate with the summer's blockbuster movies, suggested Julie Thomas-Lowe, spokeswoman for Nestle Food Co., Glendale, Calif. She said these promotions should target kids who are out of school and in the supermarket.