With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, stores are relying on procrastinating romantics to make a last-minute dash in stores and online to help clear out the supply of the special-occasion candy.
If you’re among them, don’t be fooled by the smorgasbord of cutely packaged candy adorned with hearts and cupids in all shades of rosy hues. Those sweet treats might leave a bitter taste if you do some math on how much more you’re paying for them.
Some special Valentine’s Day editions of popular candies, such as Sour Patch Kids, Jolly Ranchers and Haribo appear to be priced higher than the regular versions of those sugary treats for roughly the same quantity.
The price difference caught the attention of Veronica Fletcher, cofounder and publisher of food and cooking website Pantry and Larder.
Fletcher, a former data analyst with the supermarket industry, looked at the cost of a few Valentine’s Day-themed candies at retailers this year, such as Walmart, and compared them to regular versions of the same candies (using the price for ounce metric) and noted a hefty premium.
For example, she said a Valentine’s Day-themed heart-shaped box of Sour Patch Kids candy (3.45 oz) was listed on Walmart.com for $3.96 ($1.15 oz), while a regular box of the candy (3.5 oz) costs $1.24 ($0.35/oz).
Haribo Goldbears Gummi Bears Valentine Heart Box (7 oz) on Walmart.com is priced at $5.97 ($0.85/oz) compared to $2.38 ($0.30/oz) for a regular 8 oz bag of the candy.
Walmart said it was looking into the price differences, but said some of the Valentine’s Day candy items on its website are listed by third-party sellers on Walmart marketplace.
CNN visited a CVS store in New York City and found a heart-shaped box of Sour Patch Kids (3.4 oz) for $7.49 and another in the watermelon flavor also in a heart-shaped box for $5.99 (3.4 oz). A Walmart supercenter in New Jersey visted by CNN also had the heart-shaped Sour Patch Kids candy box for $3.96 on the shelf.
“Is it unreasonably high price for seasonal products? It sounds like it,” said Edgar Dworsky, former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts who is a consumer advocate and editor of the website ConsumerWorld.org.
“It almost gets to the greedflation issue, where some companies are taking advantage of a situation where consumers have come to expect higher prices on everything because of inflation,” said Dworsky.
CVS, in an email to CNN, said “prices of Valentine’s Day candy may vary based on cost or quantity.”
“We regularly explore new ways to deliver value to consumers, focusing on offering the right price on thousands of products every day while simplifying promotions so CVS Pharmacy customers who are looking to save money can better access our value through our loyalty offerings, like our ExtraCare Rewards program,” the retailer said.
Seasonal items typically are made for a limited sales period and hence made in limited quantities. “This can make it costly to manufacture these items and to sell them,” said John Talbott, director at the Center for Education and Research in Retail at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
“Valentine’s Day is a one-day opportunity. So sellers almost need a higher markup on the candy items to justify stocking the specially-packaged products,” Talbott said. At the same time, plenty of shoppers will likely not even be thinking about the price as Feb. 14 rolls around. Retailers are counting on it.
“My thought is, it’s kind of like ‘Oh crap! I forgot to get my wife chocolate.’ At that point you aren’t even thinking about the price,” he said.
A smarter approach might involve some advance planning, suggested Dworsky.
“Buy the candy after Valentine’s Day when it’s heavily discounted or buy the regular cheaper version of the candy and package it yourself,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
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