Gerhard Jenne illustrates how a revamped strategy paid dividends for his business this Easter. 

Last year I wrote that Easter 2014 was pretty much average: it sat bang in the middle of previous Easter trading periods. We thought we hadn’t got our sales mix quite right, since we ran out of our own homemade products and had to discount some bought-in confectionery lines after Easter.

This year our marketing and production teams got together early on to learn from Easters past and create a strong theme, and thus we created a ‘Hippy Easter’, with killer products such as ‘H.A.S.H. Brownies’ and Flower Power Easter cakes as well as a cutesy range of our Mini Bakes fashioned into lambs, chicks and bunnies. Surely the sails were set to take us into a glowing Easter sunset.

The sun was mostly out and the weather was dry and cool, with good conditions for customers to come out and treat themselves and, more importantly, others too. And, praise the gods, this year we had no credit card machine meltdown either, costing us 20% in turnover on one of the days in the final Easter week of last year.

Following on from 2014, we did make the strategic decision to reduce the lines of bought-in chocolates and give more space to our bakery products, such as Simnel cakes, Mini Bakes, hot cross buns and brownies. These items don’t attract VAT and thus carry better profit margins. In one store, we also took out our savoury offer to give more space to what we love most, cakes and sweets.

A first glance clearly indicates that the new strategy was the right move. The specially created H.A.S.H. brownies (hazelnut, almonds, secret spices and honey) more than doubled the turnover of the most successful confectionery line.

Like-for-like sales of hot cross buns were very strong this year too. Praised on Twitter and Facebook as one of London’s best, sales ended up 25% higher than last year. I did notice that an increasing number of our customers had placed large orders. Much to our delight, it seems to have become a tradition to organise an office ‘Hot Cross Bun Butter-Up’ to welcome the Easter break. That’s just the sort of joyful event we like and, to make it really easy, we offer a four-for-£5 deal, providing butter portions, knives and napkins too.

Learnings from last year

We didn’t bake enough Simnel cakes last year and definitely wanted to address this. We bake and mature them a few months in advance, but our brains were still in a New Year’s haze when we did our calculations and we accidentally baked far too many. The mistake, however, paid off and our smaller panibois-based 400g loaf became a runaway success. Larger round cakes did very well too. Programmes like The Great British Bake Off have educated people about baking and this has led to more of an interest in traditional recipes like Simnel.

The trend towards smaller, easy-to-share items was confirmed by increased sales of our Mini Bakes. These are individually baked, bite-sized versions of our most popular bakes. Who can resist a baby chocolate sponge that looks like a woolly sheep or a carrot sponge with passion fruit mascarpone frosting, fashioned into a chick that peeps “buy me” at the customer. Interestingly, the store that managed to give them the largest and most dashing display area outpaced all the other locations, proving that the new strategy is working.

By reducing the number of lines, but increasing the volume of others, we managed to increase confectionery sales by 15%. After reading British Baker, I guess this is exactly what Tesco is trying to do with its bakery ranges.