The Tustin store is a prototype being tested by the 92-year-old candy company with Southern California roots.
The 3,000-square-foot shop, which opened Wednesday at The Market Place in Tustin, is more than double the size of a typical mall-based See’s storefront. The 200-unit candy company, founded 92 years ago in Los Angeles, said central O.C. is an ideal location to test the large format store.
“Orange County is a terrific trade area for us,” said Brad Kinstler, chief executive of the Bay Area company. “We anticipate customers will come from far away to this store.”
The Tustin shop, next to Sprouts, maintains See’s classic black and white décor and signature candy counters. Instead of one candy counter, however, there’s two – a first for any See’s retail store. During the holidays, candy counter lines tend to get long as shoppers choose favorite chocolates to fill boxes that weigh up to 5 pounds. The shop also features four, instead of two, cash registers dedicated for grab-and-go orders.
See’s generates 50 percent of its revenue during the holiday shopping season, Brand Manager Natalie Brown said. With two counters and four express counters, See’s wants to keep time-strapped customers happy.
“People are not as willing to wait in lines as they did 30 years ago,” Kinstler said.
With the Great Recession over, Kinstler said See’s is moving forward with a plan to open 10 to 12 retail locations a year. Another prototype retail store is slated to open in January in San Francisco. (Note: The large See’s location in Anaheim is an outlet store for distributing candies to fundraising organizations.)
Many of the See’s 100 different candies still are hand-decorated during the manufacturing process. Stores, including seasonal pop-up shops, sell 26 million pounds of candy a year. Stores give away roughly one million pieces of candy a year to customers.
In May, Swiss chocolate giant Lindt opened its first permanent California location at The Outlets at Orange. Kinstler said See’s decision to launch its new prototype in Tustin had nothing to do with Lindt’s new O.C. operation.
U.S. chocolate sales are on the rise, in part, due to rising sales in premium chocolates, according to the latest data by market research firm Packaged Facts. Retail chocolate sales reached nearly $20 billion in 2011, up 6.6 percent from the previous year.
Premium chocolate sales increased 8.7 percent in 2011 to $1.1 billion, according to the Packaged Facts report.
The Tustin See’s store is at 2985 El Camino Real, Tustin.