Candy's not on her list, but she snags a Snickers bar to appease a sudden craving.Her eye then is caught by a sign proclaiming: "3 for $1." She grabs two more.How sweet it is.This scenario is being acted out more and more often lately at checkouts, as well as at end displays and in the aisles. The reason: Supermarket wholesalers and chains are doing more multiple candy programs to move more products

Candy's not on her list, but she snags a Snickers bar to appease a sudden craving.

Her eye then is caught by a sign proclaiming: "3 for $1." She grabs two more.

How sweet it is.

This scenario is being acted out more and more often lately at checkouts, as well as at end displays and in the aisles. The reason: Supermarket wholesalers and chains are doing more multiple candy programs to move more products and take advantage of the higher margins generated by the confection category.

Some retailers said they are so impressed with the results of candy multiples that they will be doing even more of these promotions in the coming year.

"Every time the opportunity presents itself, I will go to a multiple price," said Grant McLean, the merchandiser in charge of candy for Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash.

Generally, multiples are most effective with count goods, but other items are being used as well, said buyers. Some chains have permanent programs to mate the right product with the sudden impulse. And, if the price is kept at a dollar or under, sales are particularly hot, they said.

The retailers added that another benefit of encouraging multiple purchases in candy is that it helps offset unfavorable price comparisons with mass merchandisers and other classes of trade.

However, other buyers said that, since mass merchandisers can and frequently do use multiples too, it's not a true supermarket advantage.

"We've had both views over the past six to eight months," said Bill Kitrick, a grocery buyer for Winn-Dixie's Miami division, Pompano Beach, Fla. "We were getting away from multiples, but now we're getting back to them, because it certainly moves product."

And that is the crux of multiples merchandising -- it moves products. The suggestion of purchasing more than one candy item is a powerful sales technique, said retailers. People, more times than not, will buy two, three or four, given a nudge. After all, everyone loves a bargain.

"If you advertise just one [bag of candy], certainly a lot of people will pick up a second bag; but a lot of people won't," said Dave Renaldi, grocery buyer for Martin's Super Markets, a 13-store chain based in South Bend, Ind. "However, if you advertise two, three, or whatever your multiple is, people will buy that number. In most cases, you sell more product.

"We are using more multiples, both single bars and bags," said Renaldi. "One of the benefits for supermarkets is it's going to last the consumer longer and keep them from having to go to the mass merchandiser.

"Another benefit is you get a bigger ring. And, what we've found is, if people have highly impulsive candy and snack food items in their homes, they will consume them.

"So, in a given week, if they take home one bag of candy, they're going to eat one bag. But, if they take home two bags of candy, they're going to eat two bags. And they'll be back next week to buy it again," said Renaldi.

Food Circus Supermarkets, Middletown, N.J., is benefiting from more multiple candy promotions as its wholesaler, Twin County Grocers, Edison, N.J., is working more into its advertising plan.

"Wholesalers are doing more of it with their advertising programs and you do sell more product," said Mark Azzolina, grocery buyer at Food Circus.

John Fitch, owner of Fitch's IGA, Wilmore, Ky., said between 30% and 45% of his count good candy sales are of the multiple variety.

"It's really effective with prices less than a dollar," said Fitch. "Bagged candy is a little harder to sell in multiples. But three-for-99-cents candy bars blitz out of here."

"Under a dollar is really blowing out of our stores," echoed an Oregon retailer, who asked not to be identified. "We're selling a lot of candy, so I presume the multiples are working."

John Lamkin, director of merchandising for Kirby Foods, Champaign, Ill., said his company is doing a lot of multiples with single bars.

"And when we merchandise the singles in the ad, we're consistently going four for $1," Lamkin said. For the most part, the consumer mindset is to purchase four without giving it a second thought, he said.

Winn-Dixie's Kitrick agreed that the $1 or $2 price points for multiples seem ideal, when you can reasonably hit them.

"We do have a peg line of [bagged] candy at two for $3. But when you get into the bags that are over $2, you don't really want to get into multiples there," he said.

The most effective promotions are those in which it's immediately apparent that there is a dramatic bargain in buying more than one, retailers said.

Rosauers' McLean reported, he, too, is running more multiples with candy.

Sometimes, he added, the practice can get confusing, and even make some consumers suspicious. For instance, during a visit to a mass merchandiser, he noted that tissue was four for $11. "And I'm standing there trying to figure out the [individual price].

"Mass merchandisers probably multiple-price more than we do," said Mclean. "I think sometimes it's a way to disguise what the price really is." Rosauers' purpose in using multiples, he added, "isn't to avoid any price comparisons with mass merchandisers. My whole, 100% purpose is to sell more product. When we go four for $1, a lot of consumers feel they have to buy four to get that dollar price."

Of course, four for $1 doesn't sound like it would generate the desired higher margins associated with the candy category. Nevertheless, despite the fact that margins on multiples aren't as impressive as on a 55-cent candy bar, the margins are still decent and the added rings are worth the dip, retailers noted.

"Margins are generally pretty good on candy anyway. And usually the manufacturer has some flexibility [on costs]," pointed out Lamkin. "We still like to make at least 15%; and we're selling more."

Winn-Dixie's Kitrick agreed that margins can be worked out so retailers are still winning with multiple promotions.

"You're giving up a little bit of profit margin, but not much," said IGA's Fitch. "Also, a lot of the multiples are brand name products -- like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups -- that will move quickly. And this also enables us to have more space on our racks for our king-size bars, which have more profit structure." Besides working with retailers on deals to make the promotions work, manufacturers help out by offering prepriced products and special displays to seize the consumer's attention.

"We sell a lot of multiples in dump display at the front end of the store," said Kirby Food's Lamkin.

"Many times these are manufacturer-supported programs and they have special displays available," noted Martin's Renaldi.

"Several manufacturers have merchandisers available. We have one that has four layers of baskets, and it's on casters for mobility," said Fitch. "It's really effective, because it doesn't take up much space and it's easy to move around. People will generally pick three candy bars out of there."

Several retail sources said the count goods part of the business is by now a permanent fixture, both figuratively and literally.

"We keep the [count goods] rack up year-round and just shop for the best deals," said Fitch. Although the rack is supplied by a single manufacturer, he's not committed to keeping only that manufacturer's products in the display, he added. "What we're committed to is having the three-for-99-cents candy bar."

Kitrick of Winn-Dixie also reported the multiple count goods program is an ongoing, permanent project, while multiples in the gondola occur during special promotion periods.

According to Jack Mahon, a buyer with Genuardi Super Markets, based in Norristown, Pa., his company combines multiples on some items with different types of promotions on other candy products.

"We do multiples, and either half-price promotions or price point promotions," he explained. "When we do multiples, they do work out for us. We put them on a reduced-price shelf for in-store promotions and temporary price reductions."

Fitch then pointed to another reason why candy count goods work better than bags do as multiples: the amount of money his ideal target market has to spend.

"Sixty percent of my candy sales are done by shoppers under the age of 12." And judging by what sells, kids are only too happy to buy three candy bars for 99 cents; but asking them to pay $3 to $5 is a bit steep for their pint-size pockets.

In fact, another retailer said there's a potential weakness to be found in this sure-fire merchandising tactic: it could falter with older consumers. According to the Oregon retailer, senior citizens may be the one segment that would just as soon not buy in large quantities.

Apparently, the senior set would rather make three trips to the supermarket and buy one bag of candy each time, then make the purchase all in one trip. "It's an experience for them," he explained. "It gives them something to do."