What a Halloween Candy Jar Taught Me About Merchandising

Duerden’s owners Sheri and Todd Hall found meaning in their leftover M&Ms.

Don’t go nuts when you pick the wrong product

By Todd Hall, Duerden’s Appliance & Mattress

Every year we put out Halloween candy for customers in a jar at the front of the store.

We get a few bulk bags of mixed candy from our nearest warehouse club and dump them in. Customers are welcome to take whatever they like.

This year, after a few hours, the pile was down to the bottom and consisted mainly of peanut M&Ms. I dumped in more candy and mixed everything together so that there was a nice even assortment from top to bottom.

The candy jar in question. 

Well, the next time I checked, there was once again a layer of peanut M&Ms on the bottom of the jar and not much else.

Deciding to be more assertive, I dumped the yellow M&M packs on the counter, filled the jar with the rest of the candy mix and then placed a lovely yellow layer of peanut M&Ms on top.   Surely they’d go now!

Well, they ended up right back on the bottom. Apparently customers were more than willing to dig for their favorite treats rather than take a bag of peanut M&Ms off the top.

I started taking it a bit personally. I’d presented the chocolate-coated peanuts in a pretty jar on a beautiful granite countertop. And darn it, I love peanut M&Ms!

Related: What I’m Thankful For: A Thanksgiving Day Reflection

Finally, two days after Halloween, all the other candy was gone and we were down to just the lovely yellow M&M bags. Certainly, if they were the only choice in the jar they’d be gone by the end of the day.

They weren’t.

I finally had to accept that I’m the only person in my town who likes peanut M&Ms. I went back to the store, got candy canes for Christmas and tossed the M&Ms. Now everyone is shopping with a candy cane in hand.

We all have peanut M&Ms on our sales floors: Maybe we like the products; maybe they do great in other markets, maybe customers used to like them but don’t any longer. Having an interesting floor involves taking some risk, and some of your favorite ideas won’t always be met with enthusiasm.

Like the candy, you’ll never really know until you give it a chance. Has the item been properly positioned? Has the sales staff been trained on it? Are we showing it well on our website and in the showroom?  These questions can often lead to improvement.

However, some items are always going to start out at the top of the candy jar and end up on the bottom. It’s a whole lot easier to present items customers really like than to try to persuade them to like something they don’t.

See also: Duerden’s: From $2M to $20M in 8 Years

From now on, we’re going to start asking what our peanut M&Ms are. We’re not going to keep putting them at the top of the jar and hope someone starts liking them. We’re going to get them out of our way so we can try new things.

BrandSource member Todd Hall is president of Duerden’s Appliance & Mattress in Bountiful, Utah, a retail store designed around the customer experience.