You won’t find any Oompa Loompas running around Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory, but that certainly doesn’t make its wall-to-wall sweets stores any less potent as kid magnets. Averaging 1,000 square feet with 500 different candy SKUs, the chain’s 74 outlets sport a whimsical factory look à la Willy Wonka, with crazy colors, lights and animatronic gears on the walls. And they’re popping up all over the U.S., with 15 new outlets bearing the names Fuzziwig’s or Sweets From Heaven (a competing chain that Fuzziwig’s acquired in 2003) scheduled to open this year.
The stores’ product mix is dominated by candy SKUs, which make up 75% of the stock list, but the other 25% is devoted to toys and plush like Beanie Babies (Ty) and Hello Kitty merch (Sanrio). Fuzziwig’s also brings in items that will have special appeal in local areas, highlighting huckleberry candy in the Northwest, for example.
Fuzziwig’s president Kayo Folsom says this strategy for tapping into an increasing number of tourist dollars is partially responsible for a whopping 70% sales increase experienced by Fuzziwig’s Orlando store. The outlet stocks regional treats like Anastasia Candies’ key lime flavored coconut patties and little molded alligators, and was recently re-merchandised to position key drivers prominently. ‘We took the Jelly Bellies from a rear wall with 27 offerings to a center wall on the aisle with 40 offerings, and it doubled our Jelly Belly sales,’ says Folsom. Chain-wide sales have also been on a rebound, growing by 6% to 7% so far this year over a flat 2003 and a dip in 2002.
While the major holidays are always a big draw, Fuzziwig’s buyer Kim Cardille says candy trends change seasonally during the rest of the year; Big League Chew gum, for example, is most popular during baseball season. But the hottest year-round trend is anything sour. ‘It’s almost like kids want to see how tough they can be,’ says Cardille. They also enjoy a good gross-out along the lines of the Sour Flush, a plastic toilet filled with powdered candy that comes with a gummy plunger for dipping. And candy being a great category for experimentation, anything new is always quick to fly off the shelves.
While Cardille does buy limited amounts of licensed candy and toys, it’s difficult to find items that won’t put Fuzziwig’s in competition with mass retailers. ‘Unless they offer some exclusivity, we’re not interested,’ Cardille says, though she has picked up the odd hot product like Manhattan Toy’s Groovy Girls.