Frances Mathis, Heinen’s candy buyer and category manager, starts planning for the winter holidays early. Very early. Earlier this summer she recently set up a “candy show” of holiday candy options that our store associates will choose from. Yes, our store associates are choosing what candy to stock at Christmas in June! But Frances starts planning even earlier than that.
“I start planning for Christmas and Hanukkah in April or May,” she says. “We start planning early so that our vendors have time to plan out their production. We create a candy show so the associates who do the ordering can see what products will be offered and decide what products, and how much, they want at their stores.”
This year there are 120 choices of holiday candy and treats the stores can choose from. This includes traditional holiday fare such as Hershey Kisses and candy canes, as well as unique or local items, like Carmen Company Gourmet Pretzels. “I really like to have local or unique items for our customers,” says Frances. “It’s something that sets us apart. The Carmen Company pretzels are my favorite. They’re made locally, and everyone just raves about them.”
There are also a few new items to choose from every year. This year, you’ll notice a larger variety of stocking stuffers and an all-natural gingerbread house. Heinen’s associates are also able to give Frances ideas if there is a product they think would be a good addition at their store.
A seasoned group of Heinen’s associates make the ordering decision for their stores. Most of these associates have been ordering holiday candy for years, so they are really in-tune with what the customers at their stores want. “Each store has a different mix of candy,” says Frances. “But it’s customized for our customers at that store. The associates that are ordering really know what is popular at their store.”
All this winter holiday activity happening in the summer can be a challenge. “I’m always working far in advance. I never know what time of year it is!” Frances says with a laugh. “I’m constantly checking my calendar, and by the time Christmas actually gets here, I’m already planning for Valentine’s Day and Easter.”