More Changes in the Retail Landscape

Mary Ellen Kuhn
Talk about channel blurring!
Department store and discounter will come together in one still-hard-to-visualize retailing behemoth if Kmart’s attempt to acquire Sears is successful.
The proposed $11.5 billion retailing venture, in which Kmart Holding Corp. would acquire Sears, Roebuck & Co., took some of even the most astute retailing pros by surprise.
“It’s a deal the likes of which retailing has never seen,” reflects retail consultant Neil Stern of Chicago-based McMillan Doolittle LLC.
“I think everybody can see the potential,” says Stern. But even he—a guy who has spent a fair amount of time contemplating the U.S. retail landscape—concedes that “it’s hard to see how it’s going to play out.”
There are some obvious synergies, of course, like Sears Craftsman tools being sold in Kmart stores and Martha Stewart housewares merchandised in Sears outlets. But what it could mean to the candy category is less obvious.
It’s hard to believe that not too long ago, plenty of people were sounding the death knell for Kmart. Whew—you’ve got to pay attention or you could easily miss something big in this business!
Just as an aside, I love the way that my colleague Warren Thayer describes channel blurring. “Everybody is selling everything,” says Thayer, who is editorial director of a couple of Confectioner’s sister publications, Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Retailer and PL Buyer. 
It’s an overstatement, but it does give a sense of both the opportunity and the complexity for the candy category!
Looking Ahead
The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s time for a bit of crystal ball gazing. My contribution on that front: Our industry has got to stay focused on diet and health issues and continue to devise new options for consumers struggling to slim down.
Did you happen to catch the Newsweek magazine article earlier this month about Texas agriculture commissioner Susan Combs? The stringent nutrition policy she implemented this fall includes a ban on soda and candy bars in Texas grade schools. Chips and cookies apparently are permitted, but only in a mini-size form. It’s hard to argue that she’s not motivated by the welfare of young Texans. Newsweek reports that more than a third of Texas kids are overweight or obese!
Meanwhile, though, as some of the experts we interviewed in the past year predicted, interest in low-carb confections appears to be fading.
The folks at ACNielsen were kind enough to share some trend data on sales of what they term “carb-conscious candy” in this issue. You can check it out on page 7.