Print Cates, director of franchise operations at California-based Powell’s Sweet Shoppe, is one lucky guy.
Print travels the world to scout out the latest and greatest candy for all 17 Powell’s Sweet Shoppe locations (plus a new store opening Nov. 17, 2010, in Berkeley, Calif., … but more on that below).
Print also works with each new Powell’s Sweet Shoppe owner to create a unique store theme through lighting, design, signage, display fixtures, and props. Each store is truly a work of art.
In between buying trips and getting ready for the Berkeley store launch, the mah-jorly fun and creative Print Cates took time out to chat with Candy.com about his enviable job, candy trends, the new store opening, and what’s next for Powell’s.
Candy.com: Heard you shared what it’s like to be a professional candy buyer at the 2010 Kid’s Candy Choice Awards sponsored by ECRM and Retail Confectioner magazine. What was the response from the small fries?
Print Cates: All ears were on deck when they learned how to be a candy buyer: the technique, and the end result—actually choosing the items. The kids had to choose items for other people to purchase in their “mock” stores and they quickly realized that they had to think about what candies other people liked, not just what they liked.
Candy.com: So which candies won top honors at the 2010 Kid’s Candy Choice Awards?
Print Cates: The first place award went to Farley’s and Sathers Candy Co, Inc. for its Trolli brand “Big Bold Bears” gummy candy. Coming in second was Schuster Products with its “Ginormous Silly Swirl” bubble gum, and Innovative Candy Concepts took third with “Too Tarts Smart Choice All Kidz Blend.”
Candy.com: I know Powell’s Sweet Shoppe has grand store openings. What do you have up your sleeve for the Nov. 17 soft opening and Nov. 20 official opening of the Berkeley, Calif., store?
Print Cates: On the soft opening date, five lucky children get to come in for a private shopping experience 31 minutes before the doors open. It will be very Wonka-esque. Then, when the doors open, our friends, family, and business associates get to come in and see the store. The grand opening is another story. We have a magician, clown, balloon maker, band, a Wonka character, a Moon Pie character, a Jelly Belly character, and so much more in store. Television, radio, and newspaper press will be there. It is going to be quite a show!
Candy.com: You travel the world to scout candy for Powell’s Sweet Shoppes. Any new products or trends that have stopped you in your tracks lately?
Print Cates: Edible Gummy Bandz (like the rubber “Silly Bandz” that kids wear on their wrists) are extremely popular as well as Candy Blood from an IV bag. Disgusting and fun. Vampires have to eat too!
Candy.com: What’s the No. 1 selling candy item across all of your stores?
Print Cates: Other than [the original] Wonka Bars (so very sad they are discontinued), our No. 1 candy item in our stores is ZOTZ. ZOTZ is consistently in the top five throughout the year.
Candy.com: Does the list of top 10 candy brands vary much from store to store?
Print Cates: Not Really. Tried-and-true items are tried-and-true items. You might have a spike if a new item comes into the market, but the business always revolves around the basics. Just like the grocery store, we have our items that are like milk, bread, meat, vegetables, and eggs.
Candy.com: Of the four major candy seasons (Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter), which one brings in the most customers at Powell’s Sweet Shoppes?
Print Cates: Actually, we have 5 seasons:) Our fifth is season is summer. Definitely, summer season brings in the most customers, but if I had to say the one specific “holiday” season that is our strongest, it’s Christmas. We are known for the place to be for stocking stuffers! Our main merchandising and look of the stores follow all of the five seasons.
Candy.com: You are a retail merchandising crackerjack forever coming up with clever ways to showcase and sell candy in your stores. The last time we talked, you were freezing Queen Anne Cordial Cherries in gelato cases for summertime treats. Any out-there merchandising tactics you’ve come up with lately?
Print Cates: I am loving mannequins! They are so fun and can be dressed to match the season or theme that you are creating. There is so much you can do using the packaging that the manufacturers have created. Turning cardboard into “clothing” is just another level. And it’s free!
Candy.com: Last time we talked, you mentioned a proprietary gelato that Powell’s created with the Annabelle Candy Company (makers of Abba-Zaba, Rocky Road, Big Hunk, U-No, and Look! bars). What’s the scoop?
Print Cates: We have liaised with Annabelle to create an Abba-Zaba and a Rocky Road gelato about 10 months ago and both flavors have been a great success. We are the only retailer with these co-branded items. Powell’s is always looking for opportunities to work with manufacturers to come up with unique items for our stores to carry.
Candy.com: It’s great to see candy buffets popping up at most every event these days. Are any of your store owners offering candy buffet catering services?
Print Cates: We have several stores that are having fun doing candy buffets. They are a unique, fun, interactive item to have at any celebration. The stores are currently doing these in test mode, which we are evaluating and then we’ll see how we can roll these out franchise-wide. By understanding the process, we can then make it easier for the franchisee and customer to have a wonderful experience.
Candy.com: Powell’s Sweet Shoppes are currently all on the West Coast. Any plans to expand domestically and/or internationally?
Print Cates: We are exploring all opportunities and during this process we are in a franchise holding pattern only opening the Berkeley store in the near future. All parties that are interested are put on a waiting list and then will be reviewed when we open sales again. The list is VERY long.