Gummi bears, Mary Janes, Lemonheads, Zagnuts, root beer barrels. To a candy fan, this might sound like heaven. But to Nick Marra, president of Groovy Candies, it’s just another fun day at the office.
For 17 years, the Cleveland, Ohio–based candy supplier has been serving up retro treats to a variety of devoted customers. Wedding parties enjoy his delicacies at candy buffets. Aficionados keep a steady supply of root beer barrels in their pockets ― the most popular candy in his product line. E-commerce shoppers just can’t get enough of the old-time confections.
And to delight them even more, Marra happily provides his customers with access to convenient delivery and redirect options. He sees it as a way to stay connected. “We look and feel just like your local corner candy store of days long gone but have global reach and presence,” Marra says.
A sweet opportunity
At the start of 1999, Marra wasn’t looking to get into the candy business. He was a partner in a small venture capital fund and doing successfully. But when the opportunity to sell old-time candies came his way, it was too intriguing to pass up.
It all started the day a friend introduced Marra to George Schauer, a motivational speaker who collected retro candies — pumpkin seeds, candy necklaces, wax lips and the like ― and sold them at his speaking engagements.
“We sat down over lunch and he talked about his passion for retro candies. What he’d found was that a lot of these products were still available, they just weren’t widely distributed,” Marra says. As the two reminisced, Schauer’s passion triggered Marra’s nostalgic and pragmatic sides. “I myself am a fan of all things retro,” he says. “That was in the summer of 1999 and everyone was hyped up about turning the page on the century but wanting to be able to keep [part of] their nostalgic past.”
Marra drafted a business plan for Groovy Candies and sent it to prospective investors, along with a gift: a selection of stylishly packaged retro candies. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. “I started securing supply chains, hired a graphic artist to design our official packaging, and found a company to develop a website for us,” Marra says. “Around the beginning of December, we were ready to go.”
Proactive marketing helped Groovy Candies get a big break: “We sent a letter to the producer of the CBS morning show. They invited us to New York and George spent six minutes on the show talking about retro candy with Bryant Gumbel. When that happened, sales skyrocketed.”
As the segment aired, a wave of phone calls poured in to the fledgling company with candy orders for Christmas. “After that, we grabbed the momentum,” Marra says. They were covered by USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Regis and Kathie Lee, Rosie O’Donnell ― “You name it! What we were doing was very new and unique. Our product captured that ‘I remember when’ spirit and took it into this century.”
From old-time treats to new-age tech
While Groovy Candies was once in a league of its own, more and more businesses are entering the marketplace. To stay ahead of its competitors, Groovy Candies offers a unique suite of shipping services that puts customers in charge.
Providing fast, reliable shipping is a vital part of its service-oriented mindset. Since 2002, FedEx has handled 95 percent of the company’s shipping needs. Groovy Candies is also a registered nonresident importer to Canada through FedEx Trade Networks and serves as a beta tester for new FedEx® services.
One of the key services Groovy Candies promotes on its website is FedEx Delivery Manager®. “It’s easy to send a customer a package or a delivery notification email, and we were using that as a cornerstone for exceeding our customers’ delivery expectations,” Marra says. He added that he felt the company needed to communicate more often with its customers. “Keeping customers in the loop throughout the transit process is very important.”
Marra downloaded the FedEx Delivery Manager Shipper Toolkit and put it on his site to inform his customers about the convenient delivery options they can easily use.
He considers FedEx Delivery Manager a vital step toward a fully integrated delivery option. “With just a little effort, customers can take a proactive approach to managing their package deliveries,” he says.
A recipe for shipping success
FedEx Delivery Manager offers customers a suite of accessible, convenient and flexible delivery services. No membership fee is required.1 After a short sign-up process, customers can:
- View the delivery status for all FedEx packages they’re scheduled to receive or that are being shipped from their home, without a tracking ID or FedEx account number.
- Provide special delivery instructions for their package. On a hot day, a customer might prefer to have a shipment of chocolates left in a cool enclosed porch rather than on the front step. With FedEx Delivery Manager, submitting details like this is easy.
- Redirect to Hold. Customers who won’t be at home when a delivery is scheduled to arrive can use FedEx Delivery Manager to request the shipment is redirected to a FedEx Office location, at no extra charge.
- Redirect to another address. If a customer won’t be at their current address, they can request to have their packages delivered somewhere other than the initial destination — across town or across the country.2
- Schedule a delivery. Customers can request a delivery date and/or time that works for them.2
When a customer signs up for FedEx Delivery Manager, the service option is provided for any shipment made to the recipients at their home, not just orders made with Groovy Candies. “In general, people who buy candy from us also shop at a lot of other places online, so it’s a win-win for us and our customers,” Marra says.
To Marra, the advantages to promoting the service are clear ― in particular, the notifications customers can receive by phone, text or email when a shipment is en route. “The positive reviews from customers have been great,” Marra says. “To me, anytime you can quickly communicate news about [when a shipment is on its way], you’re ahead of the game.”
The candy man can
Groovy Candies handles hundreds of orders every week, which can amount to as many as tens of thousands in a year. “Our major goal is to more than double our size in the next three years,” Marra says, adding that putting the right relationships in place will give the company its best chance of success. “We have a great product supply chain, and we have a great relationship with FedEx. The final part is continuing to attract and keep new business.”
Not wanting to rest on his company’s success, in early 2016 Marra hired veteran global executive leader Kevin Freese as the new chairman of the board and chief executive officer at the company. Today, Marra and Freese, along with a new creative and marketing team, energize Groovy Candies’ brands and create and evolve new products and offerings for candy aficionados around the world.
“We are positioning our company with even greater and broader offerings and programs for our customers for the next 20 years,” Marra says.
In fact, the company is set to roll out a new line of products soon, which Marra is happy to keep a mystery for a bit longer. “The focus groups we’ve forged with our creative team have uncovered a desire for cool new products for retail and specialty merchandise stores, and hospitality and special attraction venues ― so stay tuned,” Marra says. “Of course, we’re working with FedEx to make sure we’re packing and shipping these products as efficiently as possible.”
Whatever the future holds for Groovy Candies, Marra says FedEx will continue to play a key role: “FedEx has always provided us with a well-trained and knowledgeable team, including packaging specialists and international shipping expertise.”
Laura Gilbert, former account manager at FedEx, was instrumental in presenting FedEx Delivery Manager to Marra about two years ago. The new account manager, Mike Costello, continues to offer resources to help the company grow.
“Mike stops by at least once a week to check on things. We talk about any issues that may have come up in the previous week and about new services that may be coming out. It’s a good, honest relationship.”
Give your customers more
Offering customers convenient options with FedEx Delivery Manager will keep them coming back to your online store. See how the recently updated Shipper Toolkit helps you provide shipping recipients a proactive delivery experience.
1Some features of FedEx Delivery Manager require a small usage fee. There’s no charge to sign up for the service.
Source: FedEx Small Business Center, https://smallbusiness.fedex.com/groovy-candies.html