Originally Posted By www.bizjournals.com
Jim and Lisa Schalk own Toffee to Go, a retailer and manufacturer of handmade toffee in South Tampa.
Do you have any packets or materials that you provide for vendors?
Lisa: With every case they order, we give them one pound of toffee samples. People will buy our toffee in a gift shop because the packaging is gorgeous, but if they sample it, they’re hooked.
Jim: That’s probably the top thing we do to help them sell the toffee is give them samples. If you sample it, you’re going to sell it.
Lisa: We also give our retailers some marketing material that they can put in a frame. We were fortunate to be endorsed by [TV personality] Colin Cowie, and he loves our toffee and uses it. It lends credibility to the brand. We had a sign up at a show and people said I wish we had a sign like that. So we started making them for them to put in their shops.
Jim: They said I really want to see something that talks about the family and background, so we made a sign about that.
Lisa: Then we give them gloves, in case they want to break the toffee up into smaller pieces. It’s just something nice; I don’t know if they all use it or not.
What has the new packaging done for the brand?
Jim: We’ve been doing this for 11 years, but we had this one box — packaging is everything for the vendors. In a store, you have maybe two minutes — customers walk in, do the circle and walk out. If they don’t see anything, they’re not looking to sample. These boxes are fairly new and it was hard for her to convince me because they’re very expensive.
Lisa: Five years it took me to convince him.
Jim: It quadrupled our business. I used to make it all myself, so I take this very personally. So people would walk by at shows. Then we got the new boxes, and all these people were stopping. Some of them bought the toffee without trying it.
Lisa: We were blown away.
Jim: I said, “No, I make this. You have to try it.” I was starting to get offended. Some would say, “Are you new?” I said, “I’ve been here for five years and I’ve seen you walk by my booth and never stopped.” With this, now they’re yelling to their friends “Did you try this toffee/have you seen this packaging?” For the retail stores, the packaging is everything.
Is your company name on all the materials?
Lisa: For the wholesalers, we put [a promotional card] in but we don’t put our contact information on it.
Jim: So they want to make sure [customers] call that store in Alabama. They’re not going to order it on the Web from us if they can walk into their store and buy it. They don’t want our name all over everything when they’re trying to sell and get the repeat customer.
How else do you show people they can buy it from you and the shops without seeming like a direct competitor?
Lisa: When we’re at the wholesale shows, we encourage them and try to help them to sell it by giving them samples. We don’t want to take business away from them. Sometimes people will call and say, “Where do you sell it in Georgia? Or Atlanta?” We always look at the list of 600 vendors on our website and say we sell it here or there.
What if a vendor calls and says the toffee hasn’t sold well. How do you save that?
Lisa: We’ll have customers that say they have some left over. We tell them to stick it in the freezer — it freezes for a year — send us back the Christmas boxes and we’ll send you back the Valentine’s boxes. Maybe out of 600 people, it’s happened twice. Sometimes we’ll chat with a customer and they say they need more samples, so we’ll throw in an extra pound of samples. If we know it’s something special they’re doing, we’ll throw something extra in.
Gift show appearances
Atlanta: 9 years
Chicago: 7 years
New York City: 4 years
Dallas: 1 year
Pounds of toffee sold
All of 2012: 80,000
Christmas 2012 season only: 40,000