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Easter Promotions: A Basket Full of Insights

By Cody Dockrill, ECRM Data

By now, retailers are offloading what’s left of their Easter inventory with half-price discounts on chocolate bunnies and candy eggs and taking stock of which promotions worked and which didn’t. It's clear from our analysis of this year’s Easter promotions that grocers have an opportunity to help drive sales in this area for the 2016 Easter season.

According to ECRM Data’s Ad Comparisons analysis of circular ad promotions for the six weeks leading up to the Easter holiday, while the drug channel still runs the most promotions for Easter candy – with six of the top 10 retailers running Easter candy promotions belonging to the drug channel – all but two of them (Kinney Drug and Walgreens) have decreased the amount of these promotions since last year. Meanwhile, the three grocers that made the top 10 significantly boosted their number of Easter candy promotions.

In fact, New Albertsons Inc.-owned Acme Markets was third in terms of the number of total featured Easter candy promotions, with 85 ads featured during the six-week pre-Easter promotion period, up from 73 last year. No. 1 Rite Aid featured 111 Easter candy ads during the period, down from 132.5 last year, and second place Bartell Drug ran 109, dropping from 112 in 2014. The other two grocers on the list were Ahold USA's Landover, Md.-based Giant Food division, which jumped from 51 features last year to 69 this year to nab the eighth slot, and Stop & Shop, ranked No. 10 with 67 Easter candy ads featured.

Not surprisingly, the major candy brands made a strong showing in these Easter promotions, with Hershey leading the way with an appearance in almost 30 percent of total candy promotions during the pre-Easter period. Next was Mars, which represented approximately 15 percent of promotions, followed by Nestle with 6 percent and Russell Stover with just over 5 percent.

Unlike with the candy category, grocers dominated the list of Top 10 retailers promoting Easter basket grass and accessories, with six chains making the list. A drug chain took the top slot in this segment, however, with Walgreens running 30 feature ad counts during the pre-Easter period, up from 23 last year.

The grocers making the Top 10 list included Fred Meyer, Martin’s Foods, Giant Food/Carlisle, Giant Food/Landover, and Stop & Shop – each ran 23 ads featuring these products – and Smith’s Marketplace, which ran 15.

Top Promoted Easter Categories

On the category front, seasonal novelty candy, which includes chocolate Easter bunnies, candy-filled eggs and of course, Peeps, represented 4.5 percent of all Easter promotions – meaning that they were on a page flagged as such. The ubiquitous Easter ham took the No. 2 slot with 3 percent, followed by baskets, grass and accessories (2.9 percent), baking ingredients (2.4 percent) and seasonal packaged chocolate candy (see table below).

Sub-CategoryShare of Flagged Promotions
Seasonal Novelty Candy4.5%
Baskets, Grass & Accessories2.9%
Baking Ingredients2.4%
Seasonal Packaged Chocolate Candy2.2%
Fresh Plants2.1%
Carbonated Soft Drinks2.1%
Seasonal. Packaged Non-Chocolate Candy2.0%

Here are some ideas on how grocers can maximize their promotional opportunities to help drive sales for next year’s Easter holiday:

  • Continue increasing Easter candy promotions: Capitalize on the growth of these promotions, as well as the decrease in them among other channels, to position grocery as the go-to channel for not only getting Easter baskets, but filling them as well.
  • Leverage fresh: Here is where grocers have the advantage over other retail channels. Go beyond ham and beef to include more fresh meat and seafood as part of your Easter promotional mix. This, along with the candy and baskets, will make you the one-stop-shop in consumers’ minds when shopping for the holiday.
  • Tie it all together: Bundle items together to create Easter shopping solutions. Promote the candies and baskets together, as well as the related food items as part of an overall Easter holiday promotion.

Walmart did a fantastic job of addressing all three of these points with its March 29 circular. The top half of the front page featured an image of a spiral cut ham at the center of an Easter dinner table, along with the text,Celebrate Easter and feast on savings.” Also on the front page was an ad block bundling candy and Easter baskets with the text, “Build a basket filled with fun treats.” Inside the circular, not only did Walmart run ads for turkey, tilapia filets, chicken and shrimp, but also for several sides including frozen vegetables and macaroni and cheese. The text for this page: “Turn your Easter meal into a masterpiece.”

This ad is a great example of an Easter promotion aimed at filling both the Easter Basket, as well as the shoppers’ carts.

Cody Dockrill is a promotional business analyst with ECRM Data, and can be reached at [email protected].

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