By Ruth Jacob
Thorntons is one of the UK’s largest and most heritage high street chocolatiers. The retailer provides a wide range of products and aims to provide these to a customer base with varying budgets.
Profits for the year ending 2007 amounted to £186 million, with Valentine’s Day sales playing a key role in annual takings.
Plans for the Valentine’s push begin 12 months in advance according to Thorntons’ Marketing Director, Peter Wright.
He added, “In-store execution takes place around six months before time and then two weeks before Valentine’s Day, we use this time for tweaking. We take a look at what our competitors are doing and try to compete with them.”
Thorntons uses different techniques to keep them competitive in the confectionary retail sector priding themselves on the level of personalisation they offer to consumers though an icing service.
Wright said: “We provide a personalisation service, in which we use icing on all our Valentine’s Day products providing the customer with a memorable and original gift.
“Our product ranges appeal to a broad audience and the price range of our Valentine’s products - from £50 chocolate hearts to 99p chocolate lolly pops - means the customer has a wide range of products to choose from.”
It seems that when lovers want to make an impression, they are prepared to spend more on premium ranges. One Thorntons product – a £50 chocolate heart – has almost sold out.
Thorntons’ Valentine’s marketing strategy has been based on previous successes which are used to built and develop present and future plans.
“Several products last year, including the 99p lolly pops were a great success and have been included for this year’s Valentine’s Day product line,” Wright said.
Above the line advertising will not be used for this year’s Valentine’s campaign. Rather, all 600 Thornton’s UK stores will use in-store visual merchandising to drive sales.
This has been supported by PR to secure product appearing in key press publications.
Thorntons’ direct email service provides different catalogue ranges for its B2B customer audience depending on the time of year. Easter is the retailer’s busiest time of year and is supported with a substantial digital push.
Individual stores are encouraged to develop and maintain close links with local businesses and work with them.
Although Thorntons is one of the UK’s most profitable and well known chocolate retailers, the brand has diversified its product range to include flowers, hampers and champagne. Most of these products are mainly available online.
Wright added, “Diversification offers greater gift giving opportunities and a winning B2B solution. It makes it much easier for the consumer than going into three different stores.
“This also benefits Thorntons as it increases the average spending value among our customers.”
In an age where health concerns are to the fore, Thorntons has had to change its positioning accordingly by promoting the positive aspects of its products.
“We can’t pretend that we are the healthiest product option,” Wright admitted. “But our products are made with fresh ingredients. Dark chocolate is also a healthier option than some others due to its high levels of antitoxins, which are good for the heart.”
Thorntons also manufactures a diabetic product range, which launched 10 years ago and includes one of their best sellers, a diabetic Easter Egg.
A similar marketing approach to Valentine’s Day will be used for other festive periods during the year.
Wright said, “We offer the best ranges to as broad a range of people as we can. We have products that are vegetarian or gluten free, not to mention the diabetic ranges.
“The Easter selection includes four Easter eggs for £10 but also 200 limited edition exclusive hand-made Easter Eggs costing £100 to cover all budgets.”
Last year saw Thorntons unveiling the first edible billboard made completely out of chocolate. It lasted only minutes before it was demolished buy captured the attention of the national media.
So are there any plans to repeat the same PR stunt this year?
“We’ve done that already,” Wright concluded. “But something else could well be in store this Easter.”
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