NATIONAL REPORT — Following a year of lower expectations, convenience store retailers are more willing to count on candy. The percentage of c-store operators that expect their candy sales to increase in 2017 rose to 57.1 percent, a jump up from the 46.2 percent who said the same one year ago, according to the findings of the 15th annual Convenience Store News Forecast Study.
Additionally, 42.9 percent expect sales to stay the same, and no respondents believe their candy sales will decrease. The net change they expect is 1.9 percent, just under the 2.2 percent predicted last year.
According to the CSNews Forecast Study projections, however, 2017 could potentially be bittersweet for the candy category despite retailer optimism.
The CSNews Forecast Study provides dollar and unit volume projections in key c-store product categories based on data from various sources, including Nielsen for category sales history; TDLinx for store counts; and government sources for motor fuel volume and pricing data. The data is then run through a sophisticated projection model and presented in summary form. Maureen Maguire, founder and CEO of New York-based ThinkResearch, oversees the Forecast Study process.
Candy category dollar sales per store are forecasted to grow 1.8 percent, a slight uptick from the estimated 1.1-percent growth of 2016. Unit volume per store, though, is expected to see a slight decline of 0.3 percent, marking very little change from the estimated 0.7 percent drop of 2016.
This slowdown in unit volume may be due to changes in the way U.S. consumers approach their diets, some c-store operators speculate.
"Sugar is really becoming a big influence on healthy thinking," said one retailer.
Chocolate candy is expected to decline in both unit volume and dollar sales, continuing a multi-year downward trend. Unit volume of chocolate is expected to fall 1.9 percent in 2017, albeit this is an improvement over the estimated 2.3 percent it dropped in 2016 and 7.1 percent in 2015. Dollar sales per store are forecasted to decrease 0.2 percent, piggybacking on an estimated 0.5-percent decrease in 2016.
Non-chocolate candy, meanwhile, will have flat unit-volume growth and increase 4.5 percent in dollar sales per store, according to the Forecast Study projections.
Mints are predicted to have a better year, with 0.5-percent growth in unit volume compared to an estimated 2.3-percent decline for 2016. Also after a flat 2016, dollar sales of mints are forecasted to see growth of 1.2 percent.
Gum faces a rockier 2017, with an expected 1-percent increase in unit volume but a 0.8-percent decrease in dollar sales.
Look in the January issue of Convenience Store News for the full Forecast Study.