Distributing Fun

Tropical Distribution keeps the assortment cool and contemporary for kid- and teen-focused retailers.

What do specialty retailers want from their candy distributors? Specialized services, of course.
Companies like Tropical Distribution Ltd. of Pompano Beach, Fla., are focused on delivering precisely that to retail clients including Claire’s, Icing by Claire’s, Hot Topic, and Mandee, a regional fashion retailer.  
“A lot of specialty chains don’t have the room for a full display,” points out Lynea Jones, who established Tropical Distribution two years ago after spending several years at specialty distributor Sawgrass Trading Co. With its small-footprint stores, Claire’s is a good example of an alternate-channel retailer seeking to make a statement with fun and distinctive candy SKUS — without devoting a lot of space to displaying them.  
“They may just want four or six or 12 [candy] units in a store,” Jones continues. “They’re not going to want a 24-count shipper. However many they want, we’ll put them in a polybag and ship it that way.” She notes that Claire’s maximizes its limited candy display space by using a combination of dump bins, peg boards and shelving.
Clients like Claire’s also rely on Jones for help staying abreast of the latest and greatest candy offerings. “I always stay on top of new items,” says Jones. “Being in the specialty market means that they need new items. That’s what their target market is looking for.
“There have been items that have stayed on for years, but those are rare,” she continues. And if the bad news is that display space is limited in such specialty chains, the good news is that these retailers typically can work a new item in quickly without waiting around for a yearly or twice-yearly plan-o-gram reset.
When a retail client wants to experiment with something new and different, Tropical Distribution is ready to accommodate them. “We’re not forcing anyone into a plan-o-gram,” says Jones. “We’re willing to bring a new item in just for you [the client.]”
When Jones decided to take a crack at building her own business, she persuaded her mother, Priscilla D’Agostino, to put aside her retirement plans for a while to help with the start-up. After the fledgling firm had begun to establish itself, Jones invited former Sawgrass colleague Alon Koets to join the team as an account executive. Lynea’s husband, Matt Jones, also a Sawgrass veteran, lends a hand as well when needed.
Focused and flexible
Two years into the venture, Jones continues to build her business, but she’s proceeding slowly in order to stay focused and flexible for the clients she already has. “One hundred percent of my goal is service,” says Jones. “I want to ship on time, to deliver as promised.”
In addition to drop shipping to hundreds of retail outlets, Tropical Distribution also tickets merchandise with prices prior to shipping when clients request it.
Bubble gum and gummies are all top sellers for Tropical Distribution’s kid- and teen-focused retail clients, Jones reports, adding that $2 is a popular price point for such SKUs.
“Our No. 1 item is Kandy Kastle Lightning Bugs,” she notes, adding that other top sellers include Swedish Fish, PEZ dispensers and Bubble Tape bubble gum.