Monday, August 18, 2014

We Are In The Wedding Biz

One of the memberships we have is in the Tulsa Wedding Merchants.  We joined this group when we began our Candy Buffet service about 4 years ago.
Our hard working leader is Vicki Taylor of the Tulsa Wedding Show, an event which happens each January and August at (currently) The Renaissance Hotel.  All sort of vendors who somehow are involved in serving the wedding business assemble for a day long exhibit of our "wares". 
In between shows, Vicki arranges for meetings at different venues in the Tulsa area.  She also arranges for a caterer to serve some yummy goodies.  Sometimes other vendors provide demonstrations of what they offer, as well as donating door prizes for those who attend.
Earlier this month the Tulsa Wedding Merchants met at a new venue, Okapi Center on West Edison.  This new facility was put together by 2 doctors whose practice is just across the street from the Okapi Center.  They saw a need for a facility in Northwest Tulsa and by golly, they just put it together and did it.
Their story was very inspiring to us, along with the fact that each year they offer a day long health fair where 1,000 people receive free testing and referrals, if needed.  Can you just imagine what a day must be like where 1,000 people are given health check ups?  What a wonderful commitment from these 2 terrific doctors.
At our Merchants meetings a representative from each group speaks about the services their group offers.  The variety of possibilities is stunning.  I really don't think that the Tulsa community realizes how many vendors there are for the wedding business, not to mention the creativity involved.
We were asked to think about a Bridezilla story to tell at our meeting.  Most of those there had to admit that they have rarely, if ever, run into a difficult Bride.  To think that people can get through one of the most stressful and joyful days in their lives without offending anyone is miraculous.
Of course, since our business is Candy Buffets, how can we ever have a problem, selling sweetness and color?  We had no Bridezilla stories to tell.
Recently we had to bid farewell to Sarah, who for several years has been our lead on Candy Buffets. Sarah has gone on to a teaching position and we know she will do a great job.
As a result of her departure, Jesse has stepped up to take the lead on Candy Buffets.  Jesse is very enthused about this part of his job and since Jesse is a creative person, with attention to detail, we are pleased to have him as our "front man".
If you are thinking of a wedding, a birthday party, a corporate event, etc., give Jesse a call to see just how fabulous a Candy Buffet would go with your theme!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Trending UP: Peeps and Frozen Candy

Some folks might think that being a candy and gift retailer is a snap.  Some might think we just unlock the doors in the morning, help customers, pay bills, do a bit of ordering and close up at night. 
Sounds a little boring doesn't it?
In reality, in order to create a "happy place" (have you been paying attention to our ads in Tulsa People and Intermission magazines??) a candy and gift retailer has to work hard to stay on top of what is new and exciting.
Recently I have noticed that Peeps Candy is multiplying like little cute bunnies.  Not long ago, Peeps were Easter candy, just a one of kind marshmellow-y confection.  Well buddy, that is not the case any longer!!  Peeps are coming in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes, dipped in milk or dark chocolate and available more than just at Easter.  In fact, I am kind of excited about the Despicable Me Peeps we ordered for Christmas.
And what about that "Frozen" movie phenomenon?  It has moved over into clothes, shoes, purses, tins, jewelry and lo and behold, CANDY!!
We have been anticipating the Jelly Belly packets of Jelly Bellys with those loveable characters, Olaf, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna on the packages.
Truth be told, the packaging is great and maybe even worth saving for a while.  Inside you will find the new shimmery Jelly Bellys in ice-y colors and flavors.  Those little packets just flew out the door and now we are waiting rather impatiently for our distributor to get more inventory....we are temporarily sold out.
Wait until Christmas!!  There is a lot more to anticipate from the "Frozen" license.
How do we know about these things?  There are trade magazines, email newsletters and just general gossip which we have to investigate every day.  Can't afford to be 2 steps behind what everyone is looking for.
Just like any other profession, retailers should be educated, involved and investigating what is available in the world of candy and gifts.
Here's the tricky question:  how do you know if you have ordered a real bummer of a gift or candy?  Only time will tell.  Are the customers buying or turning away?  

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.