ABINGDON, Va. — K-VA-T Food Stores here launched a chainwide Mother's Day cake event that buoyed both cake sales and spirits.
The event, which gave kids the opportunity to decorate Mother's Day cakes for their moms, got in-store bakery managers competing with one another in district-wide and division-wide unit cakes sales contests, and revved up enthusiasm among associates and customers alike with a display contest.
As a result, unit sales of Mother's Day cakes jumped an average of 40% across the chain, compared to Mother's Day weekend 2008.
“Cakes have always been a good category for us. In fact, they're our number two category in contribution to profit,” said David Haaf, director of bakery and deli operations at the 104-unit chain.
So the chain, with most of its stores operating under the Food City banner, aimed to make the most of an already successful category and have some fun along the way.
“With the economy the way it is, we wanted to create some excitement — some fun for our customers and for our associates,” Haaf said.
“We have, for a long time, put emphasis on our photo cakes. They've done well for us,” Haaf said, adding that he and others at corporate thought Mother's Day would be a good holiday to call attention to them.
As expected, many of the cakes sold over Mother's Day weekend did incorporate photos, even some of those the children decorated.
At a Food City store in Louisa, Ky., most of the kid-decorated cakes were eight-inch, single-layer rounds, with a retail of $5.99. If the customer wanted an edible image photograph incorporated on the cake, that was an additional $5.
Quarter sheets, at $14.99, plus $5 for a photo image, were available for decorating, too.
That particular store got into the swing of the K-VA-T Mother's Day event in a big way, and it paid off.
In-store bakery manager Tanya Moore set up tables near the entrance of the store on Friday afternoon before Mother's Day and again on Saturday from 11 to 4.
“We set up a table that was lower so the kids could reach it easily,” Moore told SN.
“We even put some boxes up there for the really little kids. We had some two-year-olds and even younger.”
Moore was assisted by cake decorator Dawn Newsome and bakery associate Melissa Holley.
“Our reasoning in setting up the decorating area where we did was that it would be seen quickly and also that Moms could feel free to drop off their kids with us while they did their grocery shopping,” Moore said.
Children were given a disposable icing dispenser for decorating. Then, Moore and her associates helped them with the mechanics of decorating and gave them some ideas.
“We had a great time. Some adults even decorated cakes.”
In the midst of the activity, displays of large cakes decorated for Mother's Day and old photographs of Moms and their families bedecked the area.
“We built those displays as part of our entry in Maplehurst's display contest,” Moore said.
Moore referred to display contests in all of K-VA-T's districts that were sponsored by supplier Maplehurst Bakeries, Brownsburg, Ind. Maplehurst also sponsored a unit cake sales contest in all districts.
Last week, the company announced that Moore's department at the Louisa Food City store was the winner of both contests in its district, and in its division, as well. The bakery had pushed Mother's Day cake sales, by units, 47% above Mother's Day weekend last year.
Company officials commented that Moore and her staff had shown a lot of creativity and worked hard on their displays.
“You could just feel the enthusiasm in that store. The atmosphere was great, because everybody got so involved,” said Sheenan Hyatt, K-VA-T's bakery category manager.
Bakery manager Moore actually became part of the Mother's Day display herself as she dressed up in a costume to look like Mama Harper from the old Carol Burnett television series.
“We had a lot of fun, and we ended up selling 55 of the little cakes the kids decorated, plus a lot of other Mother's Day cakes,” Moore said. “They were busy back there in the bakery.”
Hyatt told SN she thinks events that get associates involved are very valuable.
“Years ago, we used to have some merchandising events in the bakery, but nothing on this scale,” she said. “This was very well organized. We let everyone know well ahead of time what was expected, and all 94 stores that have a bakery participated.”
Based on this year's success, there will be more such events, Hyatt said.
“Absolutely, we'll do it again next Mother's Day, but even before that, I think.”
Halloween will probably the next holiday that lends itself to such an event, she said.