LAUREL GROCERY'S 'SWEETSTAKES' HELPS CLIENTS FATTEN REVENUES

LONDON, Ky. -- A candy contest by Laurel Grocery Co. here helped its clients reap sweeter sales plus cash and vacation prizes.aler's supermarket and convenience store clients promoted candy in an effort to increase their sales percentage.Tom McClure, vice president of sales at Laurel, said each store was assigned a sales base derived from the store's candy sales figures from April 1995 through July

LONDON, Ky. -- A candy contest by Laurel Grocery Co. here helped its clients reap sweeter sales plus cash and vacation prizes.

aler's supermarket and convenience store clients promoted candy in an effort to increase their sales percentage.

Tom McClure, vice president of sales at Laurel, said each store was assigned a sales base derived from the store's candy sales figures from April 1995 through July 1995. If a store was not buying candy from Laurel during the base period, McClure assigned a base.

Rules for the contest prevented multistore owners from combining sales and from ordering heavily into one store and then sharing it with other stores, he said. About 125 stores participated in the contest, including grocery retailers and convenience store operators. Most retailers, he said, promoted by building massive lobby displays. Some placed shippers around their stores, but very few cross-merchandised, McClure added.

Promotion suggestions from Laurel included resetting candy sections, ordering shippers and displays, implementing multiple pricing, signing displays, using suggestive selling and displaying in multiple areas in the store.

Laurel maintained contact with the participants throughout the contest, updating them on their progress through a letter about halfway through the contest, McClure said. "Our candy buyer, Stacy McWilliams, put out special surveys on shippers, allowances and products about every three weeks," he said.

"In addition to that, we may have a hot deal we stumbled across and we put out something special just on that item," McClure added. Manufacturers get behind the program too, he said. They will usually provide empty displays and dump bins, he added. McClure said stores "had anywhere from 25% to more than 100% increases." The winner, Greg Horn, owner and operator of Payless Food Center, Cynthiana, Ky., started with the highest base, but was still able to increase his sales percentage by 165%, McClure said. "He really wanted to win it," he added. "A lot of [the displays] were tied to seasonal. But Greg Horn just built some massive 10-pack candy displays and 3-for-$1 dump bins that he scattered throughout the store. Then he ordered a lot of shippers," McClure said when asked about some of the more impressive displays.

By achieving the highest percentage increase, Horn is the winner of a seven-day, six-night trip for two to Nassau or Freeport. If he elects not to take the trip, he will instead receive $500. Nine additional cash prizes were awarded: $400 for second place, $300 for third place, $200 for fourth place, $100 for fifth place and $50 each for sixth through 10th place.

Benefits to Laurel are three-fold, said McClure. "No. 1, it improves our sales; No. 2, it improves our gross profit, and No. 3, it improves sales by increasing our retailers' awareness of the potential of candy sales," he said.

This contest was different from Laurel's first two, McClure said, because he used the sales bases to determine the winners. "I used a point system in the first one and the second one," he said.

"I may change the name," McClure added when talking about the next candy contest. "[It might be] later this year and, if I do, I may change the name to Sweet Dreams," he said.