Thursday, July 24, 2014

Black Jack, Clove & Beeman's: A Gum Tragedy

This summer I have been receiving "candy world gossip"....remember my last blog about Lindt purchasing Russell Stover?
Yesterday my candy sales rep Gary dropped by the store and in our conversation we spoke about whether Black Jack, Clove or Beeman's gum will be manufactured and available this year.
To catch you up, years ago the company which manufactured these 3 gum flavors sold their recipes to Wrigley's.  Wrigley's realized that the popularity of these 3 gum flavors was based on scarcity, so Wrigley's began manufacturing this gum every few years and in limited quantities.
We attempted to let our customers know about this policy and each time the gum was available, we ordered a large quantity for the store.
Recently the 3 flavors started to appear in the U.S. at some Cracker Barrel restaurants.  It turned out that the gum was released in Canada but not in the U.S. and some people were illegally importing it from distributors in Canada.
Reporting this information back to the manufacturer, our distributor was told that the importing was going to be stopped and the company was thinking of never again manufacturing Black Jack, Clove or Beeman's gum.
We hope that doesn't come true.  Right now the manufacturer is unwilling to sell it's recipes to another manufacturer.  The whole thing is up in the air.
If we hear more about this gum tragedy, we will let you know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Boondoggle or Blockbuster?

Boondoggleor Blockbuster??  That is the question of the day for people thoroughly invested in the world of chocolate.
What has happened is that Lindt & Sprungli has purchased Russell Stover Candies for $1.5 billion.  And just to be clear, Lindt also purchased Ghiradelli chocolates earlier in the year.
The question some are asking is whether a supreme chocolate maker like Lindt can match itself with a very mainstream chocolate like Russell Stover (which by the way, annually receives a very poor review from Consumer Reports).
Some speculate that Lindt wants to increase their exposure in the U.S. by integrating with a company which has a great many outlets.  Others are wondering if Lindt will work to improve the quality of Russell Stover chocolate.  Are you familiar with Whitman's chocolates, because those are also a division of Russell Stover.
Through this acquisition Lindt becomes the 3rd largest chocolate maker in North America, with a 10% share of the market.
Others are commenting about the 2008 acquistion of the Wrigley company by Mars. Did that match actually do anything for either company?   Some insiders also point to the recent 8% increase in prices by Hershey.  After all, commodity prices do go up, which forces chocolate and candy companies to increase their prices as well.
Did you know that there is so much excitement in the world of chocolate?  It's not just a candy is a $1.5 billion box of chocolates!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Go Skylar Diggins! Go Shock!

I subscribe to Oprah's magazine and I just had to comment on this month's (August) issue which features Skylar Diggins, the WNBA star for our own Shock team.
First, Skylar is a beautiful woman and I love the dress she is wearing (page 33).
Second, her go to snack seems to be sour gummi worms.  At Sweet Tooth we call those Sour Brite Crawlers and what a better way to pump up interest in those sour worms than having Skylar Diggins say that along with pizza, watching reality TV, eating sour gummi worms is like being "in heaven."
Go Skylar!  Go Shock!  Go Sour Brite Crawlers!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Do You Know What Merchandise on Wheels Means?

In conversation the other day my friend Brian taught me a new "retailer's phrase":  Merchandise on wheels.
I have never heard that phrase and when I found out the meaning from Brian, I also realized that we have rarely experienced "merchandise on wheels".
Brian learned the phrase from his father.  It means that a manufacturer will guarantee the product and if it is not working in your store, the manufacturer will take it back.
So the merchandise is "on wheels"...going out the manufacturer's warehouse and coming back to the warehouse if necessary.
Very few manufacturers offer retailers a guarantee like that.  When you order a merchandise line, you are taking the chance that it will "sell through"....another phrase meaning you will never have to discount it or put it in your Sidewalk Sale!!
Ah, that is a retailer's dream.
In an earlier blog, I wrote about merchandise "flying out of the store".  Sell through merchandise is probably merchandise that is flying out of the store.
It seems that larger retailers, department stores for example, know ahead of time that they are going to have to put a great deal of merchandise on sale.  And the consumer has learned to wait for that moment when the store offers a discount.  In fact we are now in the season of department stores and other large retailers putting summer mechandise on sale in order to make space for fall and winter merchandise.
One would think that a small store like Sweet Tooth can do the same thing, when in fact it doesn't always work that way.  Thus, the Summer Sidewalk Sale.
Our Sidewalk Sale is coming up on Friday and Saturday, July 18 and 19.  We began that practice when we were in The Farm Shopping Center which annually sponsored a Sidewalk Sale in July.  When we moved to our current location, we continued the practice.
Summer Sidewalk Sales are good for customers to begin their holiday shopping.  There is always a lot of great stuff at the sale, discounted to 50% or 75% off the retail price.  Some consumers like to get ahead of the holiday shopping season and feel some relief when they get a great price on upcoming gifts.
So we hope our Sidewalk Sale merchandise will Fly Out Of The Store, cuz there are no wheels on that stuff!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dallas Gift Market: The Aftermath

Here we are on July1, with catalogues from the Gift Market piled high on the table in my "office area".  This is the Aftermath of the 4 days we spent at the Market.
What's it all about (Alfie)?  Right now it is about straightening out the orders which we placed at the Market and then moving on to the orders we didn't place at the Market. 
Most of the time a few days after returning from Dallas we start to see a flood of orders come into the store.  Quite obviously manufacturers want to empty their warehouses and us retailers want to have something new to show our customers.  It generally works out just fine, although occasionally it doesn't.
Reasons for not working out: 
(1)  sales reps didn't give us copies of our orders and we have forgotten what we did
(2)  the people who pick the orders just go whacky and pick items we didn't order and then we have to make multiple phone calls, emails and faxes to straighten out that problem
(3)  manufacturers take orders at the Market for merchandise which they haven't actually manufactured.  We used to have just such a manufacturer.  When we'd see him at the Market, we'd say:  "Jack, are you just taking orders to see what people are going to buy?'  That was Jack's way of assuring himself that his stuff would least to retailers.
(4)  at the Market we are promised a certain date when merchandise will arrive and then it doesn't....or as is the case with one of our vendors, it takes about 6 months to get all the items we ordered...just in time for the next Gift Market!!
And then there are the manufacturers who are organized, got their stuff together and merchandise comes just as ordered, on time. 
Here's the really important thing:  we are so excited every time a new line arrives.  We can't wait to get it on the shelf, send out the email newsletter or post on Facebook, and then with an aniticipatory smile on our face, we watch the door for people to tumble in and buy it.  The term is "flying off the shelf".
The stack of catalogues is getting smaller, going into the recycle box and at this point we are getting closer to being done with the ordering phase. 
It's summer though and people are vacationing, going to the lake, working in their yards, or just plain taking it easy.  Hopefully people will eventually remember that retailers are waiting for them and like a horse race, we will be off and running.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wrapping Up The Dallas Market Trip

We are now back at Sweet Tooth, with multiple bags of catalogues, a long list of orders and some thoughts about our experience.
If someone asked me what I thought were some of the main themes at the Gift Market I would reply:  Burlap, Monograms, Collegiate and more Christmas merchandise.
It seemed that every showroom had some merchandise in burlap.  I really can't say that I know why that was so, but I will say that we did order some goodies made from burlap.  The Oklahoma basket is one of my favorites and I think it will be a big hit.
As for Monograms, apparently this will be the year when customers will see monogrammed merchandise everywhere, including many upscale department stores.  We certainly couldn't be left out of that trend so we ordered some really pretty white ceramic mugs with initials which can be used for everyday as well as holiday gifts.
Collegiate is all over the place.  Not a single category is left out of collegiate colors...and that means clothes, shoes, hats, scarves, jewelry, tailgating supplies, head bands and tons and tons more.  Sweet Tooth will be selective but you will see our collegiate section grow.
In the past few years, Christmas merchandise offerings seemed to have slowed down.  People can only collect so much holiday stuff before there is no more room for another ornament or wreath or sweater.  However, this year that segment of the market has returned.  As you can imagine, every year more young people move to their own place and begin the process of accumulating decorative pieces for the holidays.  There is always a new crop of collectors and shoppers.  This is a catagory which will always be with us.
As for conversation, there was more talk about shopping locally.  The cost of overhead for showrooms has begun to leave the Dallas Market with many unleased showrooms.  Big corporations have moved out and we have to believe that part of the reason is the internet.
It astonishes me that local officials don't see what is happening when people begin to use the internet more than shopping locally.  The city's revenues from sales tax decrease and we find ourselves thinking about cutting out services which make our city more liveable and more attractive to out of state businesses and people moving to Oklahoma.
So along with the trends we saw at the Gift Market, I am hoping that we will see another trend:  shopping locally which benefits everyone.  What do you think about that?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dayb 4: Final Day at the Gift Market

At 4:00 a.m. I woke up thinking that I had come down with a cold.  Over the 21 years we have come to Dallas for the Gift Market, we have had some close calls with health issues.  Colds were standard, as well as the flu and the major emergency at the Las Colinas Medical Center with a bleeding ulcer.  Luckily it was just a slight moment of panic and I felt fine all day long.
It was raining when we left for the fun walking several blocks from the parking lot.  Once we are inside the buildings we have no idea what so ever if there is rain or sunshine.  There is no need to go outside and the vendors here have every reason to keep the buyers inside.
We met our staff around 9:15 a.m. and they left with a list of showrooms to visit.  Thank goodness for Lisa, Doris, Jesse and Sarah.  That makes 4 more experienced pair of eyes and more time to check out the Market, finding lines and ideas Jeff and I would never be able to find time to work on. 
They found a line of watches we will consider.  They double checked me, reminding me of items I had not put on our orders.  It was a matter of re-tracing our steps and making sure those items got on our orders.
So what are we considering?  Possibility of bangles with sorority charms, other licensed charms like The Wizard of Oz, Betty Boop and tons more.  The national rep for this line was once our national sales manager for it indulged in some gossip and shared experiences to catch up with old friends.
Lisa's size 6 foot helped us to get a handle on the new Lindsay Phillips shoes...we picked 3 styles which we are going to order for August.  Around the corner from LP was the cutest purse and tote line featuring great appliques which we snapped up for our store.
How about Frozen?  In about 2 weeks we will have charm bracelets with the Frozen doubt those bracelets will "fly out the door".
We ordered some great ceramic pieces for Christmas..remember the name Mud Pie??And our sales rep clued us in that all the major stores will be showing monogrammed mugs, etc this fall.  What we did was order a 72 piece collection of gorgeous mugs with initials.  Put that on your list.
We met with the people from Sweet Shop and got the low down on what is coming out from the chocolate company which has been our standard for 21 years.  There is none better.  Sweet Shop has the license for Price's Chocolate recipes which is why we have been able to continue carrying Annaclairs all these years.
We packed in quite a few other stops during the day, left the Market to eat dinner at the new Mediterrean restaurant we love.  Staff went off to he airport and after a slight delay, took off for Tulsa.
The make over at Sweet Tooth began this paint color which should be finished next weekend.  We are really excited about that.  Thank you Steve W., our painter.
Come check out Sweet'll be a very important part of the story we are re-writing.