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Sweet Sensation

BY CSA STAFF

Although personalization is no stranger to e-commerce, few retailers have embraced the concept like the colorful, made-to-order My M&M site, the customized division of McLean, Va.-based candy giant Mars Inc.

At MyMMs.com , visitors can create their own M&Ms in three easy steps. First, they are given two blank M&M pieces to design. After sorting through 22 different colors, they are asked to select two. Shoppers then type a few short words onto the pieces—messages can be a simple birthday and holiday wish or even include Major League Baseball and corporate business logos.

Finally, visitors select how they want their M&Ms packaged. Choices vary from a 7-oz. gift bag priced at $11.99 (this requires a three-bag purchase minimum) to a mini glass box that comes in sets of 12 for $74.99.

This setup is ideal for weddings and major events that require personalization in bulk, but the minimum requirement could easily deter a good number of regular shoppers. While it would be sweet to give your significant other a bag of personalized M&Ms for a special occasion, the site’s three-bag minimum purchase might be overkill.

Still, other retailers can learn a lot from MyMMs.com when it comes to leveraging a Web site that provides consumers with a fun and engaging way to be a part of the selection and ordering process. In theory, shoppers could pick up the phone to place a personalized order, but MyMMs.com gives them the unique opportunity to see and review their designs in real-time, instead of waiting for a package to arrive at their doorstep.

Retailers should also take notice of the comprehensive way in which Mars is promoting its online channel. Although the site launched in 2006, Mars is pushing it now more than ever with an extensive display of TV and online banner ads. According to Nielson Monitor-Plus, Mars spent $13 million on U.S. media for MyMMs.com last year, up from $4 million in 2006.

In April, Mars named Dallas-based imc2 as its lead agency for strategic planning, creative and media work for its customized candy unit Mars Direct, as well as for My M&M’s and My Dove brands. MyDoveChocolate.com is another customized business from Mars that allows consumers to order Dove candies with personalized messages printed on the foil wrapper.

It’s evident that Mars is embracing rich media to lure shoppers to its site, but it doesn’t stop there—the company looks for ways to keep them there, as well. For example, on its homepage, www.m-ms.com , visitors can “Become an M&M” by creating their own character, similar to the ones featured in TV commercials, by choosing from an array of body types, facial features, clothing and accessories.

The site also has a variety of games, including a promotion for the new Indiana Jones and the “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” film where—as an M&M character of your choice—visitors can navigate through an underworld maze in search of the company’s latest product, Mint Crisp M&Ms. The graphics are dynamic, and so is the message.

There is no mystery to the lesson to be learned at MyMMs.com : Integrating creative and interactive personalization into a Web site makes it more fun and enticing while giving it a unique identity. It also answers the consumer’s growing demand for personalization.

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Michaels comps down for the quarter

BY CSA STAFF

IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.

Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”

For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth  to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.

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Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.

Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.

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