2014 Creative Choice Award Winners
Merchandising Category Winner
"Holiday Cookie Walk"
Schild's IGA Marketplace
December 20–21, 2012 (two-day event)
Description of the event
The Schild’s IGA Cookie Walk is an annual two-day event held in the bakery department focused on providing customers with all of the baked treats they need to get them through the holiday season. Bakery manager Ellen Smith and her team assemble 30 feet of tables running through the bakery covered in holiday treats. Customers can grab a box at one end of the Cookie Walk, fill it with a wide variety of their favorite treats, and purchase them by the pound at the other end. Favorite treats include traditional cut-out cookies, cookies with Santa and snowmen faces, Buckeyes, pumpkin rolls, fold over cookies filled with raspberry, apricot, or cream cheese, chocolate covered pretzel rods, and a huge variety of fudge flavors. Every treat is baked in the store and most of it is completely handmade.
For the last few years their Cookie Walk theme has been gingerbread men, so not only do they bake up hundreds of gingerbread men to include for sale on the walk, but also they have one of their employees running around in a gingerbread man costume. Everyone in the bakery has nametags made to look like gingerbread men, and gingerbread men decorate the posters and promotions for the event throughout the store.
Purpose of the event
Ellen and the store owners want to help make the stressful holiday season more manageable for their customers, and doing the holiday baking for their customers is a great start.
The Cookie Walk is also an extremely effective way celebrate the holidays and boost sales not only in the bakery department, but throughout the entire store. While the Cookie Walk is happening there are specials and events going on in other departments, like wine and beer tastings.
Steps taken to develop and execute the event
Ellen and her team start working on each Cookie Walk a full year before the event. As soon as the last Cookie Walk ends, she and her team do an assessment of the event, analyzing what went well and what needs improvement. That’s also when they plan the date for the next year.
Several months out from the Cookie Walk Ellen plans the Cookie Walk menu. She starts by figuring out which are her best sellers and focusing on those, while also planning on adding some new treats into the rotation. She talks to vendors and past and current employees to plan the treats that will be included in the walk. Starting the first week of December she gets a team together to start working on cookie dough and other items that can be prepped early. That is also when the store starts promoting the event.
They print off flyers to stuff in bags at check out counters, and they put posters and decorations up in the store. They create ads to run on the local radio as well. Promotions are up on the store’s website, and this year was the first year they put the Cookie Walk up on their Facebook page.
A few days before the Cookie Walk, Ellen has a team of 30-40 people, including students from a local culinary school, to start baking and decorating. This is twice the number of people usually working in the department. That team also helps the customers put together their boxes during the Cookie Walk, as well as continue to bake and decorate that weekend. Ellen and her team make over 10,000 treats to sell for the Cookie Walk.
Success of the event
The bakery department set records for the most sales in a day and the most sales in a week because of the Cookie Walk. In 2012, the bakery saw an increase in sales of $1000 each day. Last year the bakery did over 60% of their bakery sales during the Cookie Walk. For that week the bakery department saw a 47% increase in sales. Because of other promotions in departments throughout the store, all the other departments also saw an increase in sales and costumers as a result of holding the Cookie Walk.
The Cookie Walk is a morale builder as well. Each bakery team member dresses up and wears Santa hats to celebrate. The team works very hard leading up to the Cookie Walk, so seeing it to fruition fills everyone with a huge sense of accomplishment.