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May 1, 2010
by Judi Perkins
CandyConceptsInc.com is not just about candy. In fact, candy now accounts for a mere ten to 15 percent of the company's sales. The primary product line has evolved into displays and containers of all sizes, shapes and styles, for both candy stores and other retailers. New and repeat buyers find the greater selection, as well as the convenience, extremely appealing. Throw in the successful retail store experience of owners Terry Keenan and his wife, Darlene, added to their dedication to assisting buyers in selecting merchandise and setting up new stores, and it's a winning combination for everyone.
CandyConceptsInc.com, is a 20 year old company, and began as a retail store. Said Terry Keenan, "One of the interesting things that came about from the retail experience was the education of who buys what in the candy industry." When he noticed video store demographics were the same as his candy store, Keenan correctly reasoned that a point-of-purchase candy rack in video stores would be profitable for both parties. "The rack functioned as a remote vending machine, which we filled from order forms faxed to us on a weekly or bi-weekly basis."
As the remote vending program expanded regionally, Keenan picked up additional retail stores. Adding an Internet site in the '90s allowed them to move their program into other states. "We really got going when we developed an ecommerce website four years ago," said Keenan. "We discovered that there was a lot of interest in a particular kind of container we were using in our displays." The container interest, he said, was not limited to candy. "Other types of businesses inquired too, and suddenly we were in the container business," said Keenan. "It led to different kinds of racks to hold containers and different types of displays."
Now CandyConceptsInc.com's customers span a wide range of retail stores, including liquor, hardware, gift shops and water parks. "We also work with corporations who put containers on retail counters. Lately, we are heavily into the convenience store market," Keenan said. Most of their new customers find them from Internet searches. Keenan says they are now seeing an increase in repeat customers. "Display products are not perishable; it takes a while before you see repeat customers," he said. "A $300 candy rack might be the last rack they need. Other new customers might buy 100 containers, and then a year later when they expand, need another 100."
What customers like most, he shares, is the variety of products, combined with the low $30 minimum. For instance, a buyer might purchase just one rack, or an assortment of items such as a pegboard display, a t-shirt rack, five cases of hexagon containers, and 20 display barrel. "Additionally, we are the only display source where you can find buckets shown in racks. You can find wire racks, but not the bucket racks we have." CandyConceptsInc.com's home page is eye candy, really, with 28 pictured categories that encompass over 800 products, so it is no surprise that perusing the website generates ideas. "You can find some of what we have in different places, but you are not likely to find them all under one roof," said Keenan. "Visitors assume they are going to buy a standard display, but when they get on our site, the variety stimulates sales."
Along with the standard navigational menu on the left is the "Open A Store" button. Consequently, the Keenan receives phone calls from buyers with questions generated from onsite research. "We give a lot of personal help, because the nature of our product generates people needing advice with opening a store. It is not uncommon to spend 30 or 45 minutes with someone," he said. For those customers, or ones looking to expand, there are three product grouping packages to help them get started: $3,000, $8,000 and $11,000. These are guidelines that the Keenans will help to customize, based on what the buyer needs.
The top menu includes two "Articles" buttons, as Keenan commissions a writer to provide customers with merchandising and display ideas. "For instance, we sell a great many fishbowls for everything but fish, so we have articles about using fishbowls for counter top displays and other sales ideas," said Keenan. There is also an Affiliate program, which Keenan claims is an ideal way for businesses in related fields to bring in extra profits. By signing up, listing their name, and putting a link on their website, the affiliate receives a commission on anything purchased by the referral. "A vendor who sells only small, plastic, acrylic containers might have a customer searching for racks to hold those containers, which we offer," Keenan said. "We have convenience store wholesalers who are affiliates, and show our banners on their websites."
Keenan noted that one of the reasons the convenience store segment is growing so rapidly is from joining WholesaleCentral.com a few months ago. "We have seen dramatic increases in traffic," said Keenan. "We buy Google AdWords, and WholesaleCentral is a quarter of the price for a visit to our website. I was referred to WholesaleCentral by another C-store wholesaler who had a terrific experience, and the results have been even better than I expected."
On the right side of the individual product categories are ten rotating banners, showing different product and merchandising ideas, as well as promotions more creative than the standard coupon. Said Keenan, "We want to show visitors different ideas for our products. If a customer sends a video or digital image of product purchased from us, we give them $50 cash, or a five percent discount on anything on the website for one year's time."
Keenan and his wife function as valuable business allies for their customers. The site's new "About You" tab is a twist on the traditional "About Us" page. It shares the Keenans' philosophy of providing help to the business owner, and their desire to remain on the cutting edge of retailing. It is a work in progress, and will soon devote space to customer testimonials and pictures. "We are basically a one-stop shop for a lot of store owners," said Keenan. "They can log on, get familiar with our site, and fill up a whole new store. We are available on a daily basis, and all they have to do is pick up the phone."
Minimum order: $30
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Topic: Company Profiles
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