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IT’SUGAR: Refining the Candy Store

by Nate Hunter

IT’SUGAR markets its merchandise to an older confetions shopper, with a rebellious edge.

Since IT’SUGAR is taking its store count from 40 locations worldwide to about 75 by the end of 2013, the candy retailer is proving that children are not the only consumers with a sweet tooth.

The first store opened in 2006 at Caesars on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but the idea for the concept dates to 1995, when candy veteran Jeff Rubin created FAO Schweetz, a store-within-a-store at FAO Schwarz’s toy stores. After heading FAO’s candy division for 5 years, Rubin co-founded Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan. In 2005, Rubin set out on his own and created IT’SUGAR.

“After spending over 10 years creating candy brands marketed toward over-privileged 8-year-olds who visited after private school let out, I decided to create a brand for public school 18 year olds who visited us after detention let out,” says Rubin, who serves as president and CEO of IT’SUGAR. “I wanted to create what would one day be the coolest, hippest and largest specialty retail candy brand in the world.”

IT’SUGAR stores range from 250 to 7,000 square feet. CEO Jeff Rubin says the target demographic for this whimsical product line is 18- to 24-year-olds.The difference between IT’SUGAR and other candy retailers is that its target market is 16- to 24-year olds, older than its competition. Rubin says it’s more of a category re-definer on how you can sell sweets and gifts, since the stores redefine candy retailing from a visual perspective due to the energetic atmosphere.

“Candy retailing was just not up with the times. It is still mostly lucite boxes stacked on top of wire rack fixtures with tethered scoops attached to broken lids,” says Rubin. “IT’SUGAR totally redefines that look from both a visual perspective as well as a product offering prospective.”

IT’SUGAR began expanding in 2008 by adding stores where the opportunity presented itself says Rubin. After doubling expectations with the first location in Atlantic City, the company pursued other resort/entertainment venues like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Rubin says they tried lifestyle centers with similar success and then outlet malls, which matched high expectations. The first IT’SUGAR street location is set to open in August at the intersection of 61st Street and Broadway in New York City.

The current 40 IT’SUGAR locations are in 13 U.S. states. All domestic stores are company owned. Most are in the South and along the Atlantic coast. In addition to the company’s domestic presence, there are three locations in the United Kingdom; a store at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai; and another on Grand Cayman Island.

The candy brand has three different store types, ranging from 250 to 7,000 square feet, and has an equal number of stores in all three formats. The larger 4,000 to 7,000-square-foot stores are referred to as “Experience Stores” and are located in resort/entertainment markets, which are frequent vacation destinations for tourists. These include Universal Studios’ CityWalk in California; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Las Vegas.

The 2,000-square-foot stores have a larger presence in malls and lifestyle centers, where Rubin says the retailer outperforms the centeritsugar exteriorWEBBold colors and wide entrances are part of the stores’ design schemes. These features are intended to entice shoppers to stop, and step inside. averages in almost every venue. The smaller IT’SUGAR to-go concept, at 250 square feet, is featured in places like Radio City Music Hall and department stores. In terms of expansion in the next year, new stores will be an even mix of all venues concentrated domestically in the South, Northeast and along the West Coast.

For each particular store, windows and open floor plans are important. Rubin says that restaurants and movie theaters serve as great co-tenants, but pedestrian traffic is the company’s Number 1 priority. “Our store is so colorful that frontage is really important. We always tend to open up the front of the stores so it’s hard to walk by and not be enticed to go in,” he says.

The company wants to redefine the candy experience through its mission of “disrupting the white noise of daily life.” In order to do so, IT’SUGAR works with candy manufacturers to create a lot of exclusive, one-of-a-kind candy items. It recently collaborated with Nestle to create the world’s largest box of Nerds candy, which is the company’s bestseller. Nestle also partnered with the company for the world’s largest Laffy Taffy, Sweetart and Gobstopper boxes. Each location also offers IT’SUGAR branded apparel and accessories, which Rubin says complement the edible offerings and have been widely successful.

“It’s so different than your typical candy store,” Rubin says. “We’re a very fun, irreverent brand that’s redefining how to sell candy.”

— Brittany Biddy

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