Three days until the grand opening of the latest IT'SUGAR store and it's time to dress the mannequins. But instead of the latest fashion, they will be sporting candy couture.
Eye-catching candy couture of course. But with a little resemblance to a Victoria’s Secret model, that's a key part of the strategy.
IT'SUGAR wants to sell you candy the way Victoria’s Secret sells you lingerie -- a little cheeky, a little rebellious and with a lot of flair.
The stores are the brainchild of Jeff Rubin, self-described Chief Gummy Bear.
Selling candy isn't exactly a new idea, but it's a $30 billion market in the United States. Which is why Rubin has decided the way to get his share is with attitude.
“There are two ways to play it,” he said, “You could just disguise it, or it's what it is -- it's sugar. We're fun, we're cheeky, we're irreverent. It's a place, it's an experience.”
It's an overwhelming experience with nearly 8,000 different edible items for sale in each store, ranging from the old-fashioned standbys to random Japanese fruit candy to 26 super-sized versions of those all-time favorite sweets, like a gigantic box of Nerds. At 3,120 calories, it contains about as many calories as six Big Macs.
“It's okay to have, you know, a few gummy bears, it's okay to have a little candy,” said Rubin, “And you should be the one that decides how much you want. You could have one little gummy bear, you could have a hundred gummy bears. It should be your choice.”
The candy business might be a risky one considering high-level public officials who are leading the fight against obesity -- Michelle Obama and New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example.
“I don't believe that IT'SUGAR stands for giving huge amounts of sugar to children,” explained Rubin. “But if that child wants to have a few gummy bears or wants to have something while he watches a movie, have a little box of Raisinets, then he should be entitled to that and have fun. There's nothing wrong with candy. It's not a bad word.”
Then there are the celebrity tie-ins. A Marilyn Monroe line, a “Seventeen Magazine” tie-in, Sugarpova gumballs. Yup, as in tennis player Maria Sharapova. And there's talk a rock star icon may soon be appearing in the stores. And which celebrity would Rubin like to work with most? Katy Perry.
Surprisingly, sales are relatively modest. But the company is opening stores almost as fast as you can get a sugar high -- 60 by the end of this year, 100 at the end of next year.
In a world where the word “sugar” is often paired with the words “bad for you,” Rubin and his rebellious band of employees think that's a natural selling point.
“Sugar is the vice, in a good way,” he said. “You're told how many glasses of water you need to eat and drink, you're told how much sleep you need and you're also told how much sugar is the right intake for you, if any. And so we like to poke fun at not just sugar, but all of society's rules in a fun-hearted, good-hearted way.”
- Jeff Rubin