Mining the Best Candy Store Finds for Customers

By Karen Appold

The summer season triggers sales of certain classic candies plus some new additions. At Old Port Candy in Portland, Maine, Owner Anna Largay said taffy, chocolate-covered blueberries, and gummy lobsters are all the rage in the warmer months. “Taffy is traditional seaside fare in Maine,” she said. “The chocolate-covered blueberries are a treat, as they are made locally with Maine blueberries. And the gummy lobsters are just fun. Everyone wants lobster when they come to Maine.”
For Dawn Gildersleeve, the general manager of Cherry Republic’s shop in Traverse City, Mich., chocolate-covered cherries are the top-selling candy throughout the year. In summertime, they are especially popular, particularly ruby red sour cherry patches, sour twin cherry gummies, cherry licorice bites, imperial malted milk balls, and iced imperial pretzels. “These candies are a hit with all age groups, but kids on summer vacation really love them,” she said. “They are offered at a lower price point than our chocolates and hold up better during the hot summer months for those who are traveling.”

Store Owner Jeff Balk, left, with Store Manager Keith Ingram, of Snyder’s Candy in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Last summer, even during the pandemic, Jelly Fruits outsold all other candies at least 10 to one, according to Balk.

In May and June, Brenda Casabona, co-owner, DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates, Martinsburg, W.V., said the best sellers are gift boxes of truffles and assorted chocolates that are themed for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, and as a “thank you” to teachers. “They are popular because the packaging is specifically themed for the occasion,” she said. For example, boxes say “Happy Mother’s Day” or “thank you” along with apple motifs inscribed on boxes.
Casabona said her summer sales tend to be non-chocolate items such as gummy candies or small chocolate boxes for an occasional birthday or thank-you gift.
Quality chocolate sales fall off in the summer because it’s hot and chocolate melts, Casabona said. Before the advent of air conditioning, many chocolatiers in the United States ceased production in the summer because cool conditions are needed to produce finished chocolates, so production was difficult or impossible. “I think this contributed to a cultural association of summer with ice cream whereas chocolates resonate with cooler weather,” she said.
Jeff Balk, owner, Snyder’s Candy, Rehoboth Beach, Del., said candy that is popular on Tik Tok and YouTube dictate both candy sales in store and online. Last summer, even during the pandemic, Jelly Fruits outsold all other candies at least 10 to one. Now, he is seeing continued sales in Jelly Fruits, but both Toxic Waste’s Slime Lickers and Juicy Drop Pop’s Dip ‘n Stix will take off this summer. “Their momentum has already picked up and our distributors are unable to keep them in stock,” he said. “There is no doubt that their popularity is triggered by videos posted online. Typically, popular summertime candies sales include cotton candy, Bean Boozled, and anything sour.” 

Favorites Other Times of the Year
Cherry Republic’s line of chocolates is consistently a best-seller throughout the year. “Chocolate is a universal gift and appropriate any time of the year,” Gildersleeve said. The shop carries a wide variety of chocolates including cherries covered in milk chocolate,
dark chocolate, cherry chocolate, white confectioners glaze, amaretto chocolate, and premium 72 percent dark chocolate. Its milk and dark chocolate-covered turtles are great for holidays and are always a fan favorite. “Cherry Republic’s chocolate-covered nut mixes are perfect for entertaining—especially around the holidays.”
From September through Father’s Day, DeFluri’s Fine Chocolates’ best-selling candies are boxed chocolates that are purchased primarily as gifts. “They’re popular because they’re a gift that not everyone buys every day; therefore they are seen as special and indulgent,” Casabona said. “If you’re purchasing a gift for someone you don’t know extremely well, chocolates don’t require that you know a size or color preference. They’re considered special but not overly personal. Some events are culturally associated with chocolate such as Valentine’s Day and Easter.”
Snyder’s Candy has been at the same location in Rehoboth Beach for 81 years. Its retro candy selection is an attraction for locals and tourists alike and are popular year-round. “I believe that it’s so popular because of our wide selection,” Balk said. “Other popular items are Pez and anything sour.” 
Old Port Candy makes fudge in the 900-square-foot store, which is popular all year long. “People love to buy what we make and what we’re known for,” Largay said.

Shown, in front, Amanda Tranmer, Traverse City store manager, Cherry Republic, Michigan, with Dawn Gildersleeve Traverse City General Manager, in the back. Gildersleeve said chocolate-covered cherries are the top-selling candy throughout the year.

Display Tips
Cherry Republic’s iconic, eye-catching packaging makes its products instantly pop on the shelf. “We feature our best-sellers in easy-to-find places and in multiple locations throughout our stores,” Gildersleeve said. “We display smaller versions of our full-sized products at the point-of-sale for last-minute purchases and add-ons.”
Themed displays work best for Casabona, placed well out of the way of sunlight. “Smaller baskets are great for giving a presence to small gift boxes and bags that would otherwise be overlooked if displayed individually,” she said. “We always create displays with varying colors, heights, and levels to draw the eye.” The shop is 1,000 square feet.
Balk’s store is just over 400 square feet so display is key. “We have a section dedicated to retro candy, candy bars, Pez, and so forth,” he said. “People are drawn to this large cluster within the small store.” 
“Keep selections full,” Largay said. “No one likes the last one of anything. When it’s full, it’s always more appealing.”

A candy display at Cherry Republic showcasing popular sour cherry candy. 

Changes Due to the Pandemic
COVID-19 forced candy stores to make some changes to their service. Before the pandemic, Old Port Candy offered bulk candy that guests could scoop themselves. Now, staff pre-wrap everything in one-quarter pound bags. “At first customers missed the scooping, but almost always they end up saying that they actually like it better this way,” Largay said. “I find there are fewer surprises at the cash register and the store is so much cleaner at the end of the day because there aren’t any spills.” She plans to continue bagging all the candy from here on out, even though it’s labor intensive.
Furthermore, Old Port Candy started making private-label fudge for wholesale, as well as selling packaged bulk candy wholesale to some distributors, which has created an additional sales stream.
Cherry Republic made several changes to accommodate COVID-safe protocols, including: creating one-way traffic flow through its retail stores, increasing the frequency of cleaning procedures, installing plastic shields between customers and staff at point-of-purchase, requiring staff and customers to wear facemasks, and offering free hand sanitizer throughout stores.
“Going forward, we are adjusting some of these practices as CDC guidelines change,” Gildersleeve said.
Casabona removed some displays to provide more open floor space. The shop offered online ordering with curbside pickup as well as private shopping times at the beginning of the pandemic. “I don’t think these changes will become permanent as people become more comfortable with going back to in-store shopping,” she said. “We are seeing people starting to migrate back to the in-store experience.”
Several changes were made to Snyder’s Candy store during the pandemic in order to make the store safer for staff and customers. Plexiglass was added to the register area as well as to a back area where staff often interact with customers. Also, new displays for all candy were purchased so that there was more room for customers to stand as well as social distance. Balked removed most self-serve candy bins for unwrapped candy, such as gummies, that used a scoop. He plans on keeping all changes, except for the social distancing stickers.

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