With all your Christmas stock, staff and rotas sorted (hopefully), it’s time to look ahead to the spring occasions Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter. According to Mintel’s Seasonal Shopping report from August, 68% of consumers spend money on Easter products and services; 64% spend on Mother’s Day items; and 55% spend on stuff for Valentine’s Day.

Starting with Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Saturday in 2015 (February 14), the most commonly bought items are cards, followed by chocolates then flowers. For Mother’s Day (Sunday March 15), cards are the top seller again but are followed by flowers then chocolates. But there’s no surprise when it comes to the biggest seller for Easter (Sunday April 5) chocolate, with 53% of consumers buying some sort of chocolate gift.

Mondelez International calls Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day ’mini seasons’ but chocolate sales for these occasions are more maxi. According to Nielsen Scantrack data covering gifting and sharing chocolates, Valentine’s Day is worth £33.3m and Mother’s Day £31.5m, with both sales occasions showing growth of 6%.

To cash in, Mondelez says independents and symbols should concentrate on two best-selling SKUs Cadbury Milk Tray and Cadbury Roses. That’s because, according to Nielsen, the number one product in independents and symbols for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day is Cadbury Milk Tray, sales of which rose by 13% last year. The brand will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015, and plans for high-profile marketing activity to mark the occasion will aim to keep it front of mind for consumers throughout the season. Meanwhile, Nielsen data positions Cadbury Roses as the number one twist wrap at Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Mintel’s report says that the age of your customers will affect their propensity to buy seasonal gifts. Apparently younger age groups are the most enthusiastic shoppers. Twenty-five to 34-year-olds are the most likely age group to be buying products for events such as Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day, while those with children are even more likely to do so.

The research company therefore reckons retailers and suppliers have two options: they can cater to this core demographic, and encourage them to trade up and spend a little more. Or they can attempt to bring non-shoppers into the market, attracting older consumers and those without families to spend for instance, by encouraging adult-to-adult gifting at Easter.

Countdown to Easter

The one product that signals to shoppers that Easter is on its way is the Cadbury Creme Egg. The fact that it’s only available for a few months each year keeps consumers hungry for more year after year.

According to Nielsen data, it’s the top brand at Easter accounting for 29% of traditional Easter sales in symbols and independents. And promotion via the Gooless activity in 2014, helped achieve sales growth of 42% in this trade sector. Overall, the brand grew 20% in value sales across singles and multipacks to reach £50m.

Gooless is back for 2015, running from January 1 to Easter Sunday.

Each day one winner is expected to unwrap a gooless egg and win up to £1,000. And consumers will not be the only winners Mondeléz International will match the prize for the retailers who sell the winning eggs. So their shopper’s prize will be matched for them in either Mondeléz International stock vouchers or Love To Shop vouchers.

Gooless will be supported with marketing investment and pos to help retailers make the most of the promotion in-store. In addition, Creme Egg will receive TV, digital, PR, in-store and outdoor backing.

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondeléz International, says: "The success of our Gooless promotion in 2014 shows that independent retailers have a big opportunity to leverage it to maximise Cadbury Creme Egg sales in 2015. Retailers should take advantage of stand-out pos to catch consumers’ eyes and drive impulse purchases.

"It’s also important to make the most of Easter marketing investment, stocking up when awareness will be high. Cadbury Creme Egg will be on TV from January 1, creating a great opportunity for retailers to drive sales up until Easter Sunday."

Meanwhile, the Malteaster bunny has been a spectacular success for Mars. Indeed since its launch seven years ago, the bunny has seen constant year-on-year growth. Building on this sales success, Mars is launching a new camper van gift pack for consumers who want an alternative to an egg. The camper van contains a family of two standard size bunnies and seven mini bunnies. There is also a new Malteaster bunny clip strip, which will allow retailers to multi- site the product around their stores. For 2015, the bunny will be back on TV, with a £1.3m TV spend and a new strapline: Catch them while you can!

Cadbury Mini Eggs was another brand that had great sales success last Easter. Nielsen data positions it as the second biggest Easter confectionery brand, achieving £15.7m-worth of sales and growth of 14%. The Handy Bag was the best-selling line. New to the range for 2015 is the 231g Gift Egg pack, with six mini bags in a high-quality plastic egg, which Mondelez says will bring great seasonal stand-out to any confectionery shelf.

Then there’s the Cadbury mini wrapped eggs range, which is worth £6.8m and growing across both the core range of Cadbury Creme Egg and Cadbury Dairy Milk (CDM) Caramel, and across last year’s NPD CDM Daim.

Meanwhile, Mondelez says 2014 was a cracking season for CDM Egg ’n’ Spoon, with high-profile TV and in-store activity sparking customer excitement. The brand doubled volume sales and reached value sales of £12.7m. Indeed the firm says it has been the biggest Easter NPD in the past three years.

In 2015, CDM Egg ’n’ Spoon will benefit from a £2m marketing investment from January to April including TV, outdoor, in-store, PR, digital and promotional activity.

The packaging will also be refreshed, with a new outer case structure for better shelf stand-out.

When it comes to shell eggs, Cadbury is king the brand accounted for £7.9m of total category growth of £21m last Easter. CDM Marvellous Creations was the number one NPD in shell eggs, worth £5.2m, while Cadbury accounted for seven of the top 10 shell eggs SKUs.

Nash says: "When considering shell eggs, retailers should focus on medium shell eggs from top-selling brands in 2014, Cadbury Creme Egg medium was the number one shell egg in independents and symbols."

She advises: "For a successful Easter in 2015, retailers should stock up early with self-eat products to ensure that they get off to a fast start in this shorter season, followed by a focus on family sharing products to drive momentum through the season and end it by maximising gifting for top up shopping in the final three weeks."

But there’s no doubt that Easter can be difficult for independents because of the intense competition from the grocery multiples.

The right range

Jonathan Summerley, purchasing director at confectionery cash and carry chain Hancocks, believes there is still an opportunity for additional profits, if you get your range right.

"The signs are that the supermarkets will once again fight hard over the core branded egg ranges, using many products as loss leaders to get families in store for their Easter grocery shopping. We would advise smaller retailers to only focus on premium, larger eggs if looking at branded Easter products, or eggs that the supermarkets are not stocking."

He reckons that for many independents, the big opportunity lies in low cost novelty gift items that look attractive, are not made by the main brands and can offer an interesting point of difference for local shoppers; many of whom are eager to find alternatives to standard branded eggs.

"Just like other occasions throughout the year, we increasingly seek to buy token gifts for children, friends, neighbours, colleagues and more. People buy with their eyes for this purpose and it clearly has to be good value."

Hancocks range of £1 Easter gifts for 2015 include milk chocolate Egg on Toast an 80g slab of chocolate ’toast’ with a white chocolate ’fried egg’ on top; a milk chocolate Hot Cross Bun a 100g boxed slab of milk chocolate, decorated to look like a hot cross bun; Jelly Bean Carrot a clear cone bag filled with orange jelly beans; Marshmallow Faces a gift box filled with six mallow bunny and duck faces; and a boxed Hollow Bunny a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, presented in a card box.

Summerly says another trend to be aware of is the Easter Egg Hunt. "There is wide appeal for Easter egg hunts and they remain popular over the Easter season, at parties and family gatherings. Small amounts of individually wrapped, Easter-themed chocolate is therefore in demand and will sell successfully if displayed prominently."

Hancocks products for hunts include Easter Bunny Chocolate Lollies (rrp £1 for a box of eight); drums of milk chocolate hollow bunny eggs, rrp 15p each; milk chocolate Egg Hunt bag (two varieties of foil-wrapped chocolate pieces, rrp £1); and bulk hollow eggs.

Freshly hatched

Sales of Galaxy bubbles and caramel filled eggs rose by 11.7% during the 2014 Easter period. New to the 2015 line up is a Galaxy caramel three-pack, rrp £1.60.
Unilever has teamed up with Kinnerton to offer consumers two more unusual Easter eggs a Marmite and a Pot Noodle one. The former combines Marmite with chocolate while the latter is an egg in a Pot Noodle mug. Both retail at £5.
New for 2015 is Cadbury Dairy Milk Freddo Sprinkles the fun chocolate frog with bunny ears, containing sugar sprinkles for spring. The 18g treat is available in 25p price-marked packs as well as non price-marked packs.
Celebrations 245g box is available in a new prefilled pos display unit for 2015. Rrp is £3.31.
New from Swizzels is the Spring Selection tub a quality tub with a handle that’s ideal for Easter hunts. The Easter themed tub is filled with a selection of Swizzels’ favourites. There’s also an Easter themed Spring Selection bag, rrp £1.
New Bassetts Jelly Bunnies feature the six Jelly Babies flavours in Easter-themed bunny moulds. They come in a 190g sharing bag, rrp £1.52.

Sales tips

Make the most of the Easter opportunity by stocking ranges early, putting them in-store straight after Christmas
Be sure to replenish stock throughout the lead-up to Easter to keep up with consumer demand
Group Easter eggs together by size, making it easier for shoppers to find what they are looking for
Place products in more than one location in-store use clipstrips in multiple locations such as the new Malteasters Bunny one to drive additional impulse sales
Source: Mars