July 29, 2004, 12:00 AM

E-mail and the web help revive the moribund Fannie May candies

Even as Fannie May Candies was closing stores throughout the Midwest, it kept its web site alive. The site played a crucial role when a new owner took over the company and started re-opening stores.

Even when things look bleak for a retailer and it begins shutting its doors, it can pay to keep up a web presence. That strategy worked well for Archibald Candy Corp.’s Fannie May brand, which is coming back to life after Archibald filed for bankruptcy and shut its stores earlier this year.

A long-time Midwest favorite among lovers of boxed chocolates and other candies, Chicago-based Fannie May couldn’t keep its loyal fans away even as the doors shut on its stores and Chicago news media was full of reports of loyal fans buying hundreds of dollars worth of candy while they still could. “People just kept coming to our web site, even though we had ceased search engine marketing,” says Bill Pozdoll, vice president of direct markets for the new Fannie May Confections, now a division of Utah-based Alpine Confections Inc.

Hungry for information as well as confections, fans signed up in droves for an e-mail service on FannieMay.com that promised to update them on any changes in the company’s status and availability of its sweets. Fannie May gathered 20,000 new e-mail addresses, adding to the 80,000 in its database, Pozdoll says.

When Alpine emerged with a plan to keep the brand alive, Fannie May sent e-mails to all 100,000 subscribers to let them know that some candy was still available both online and in some Chicago-area grocery and drug stores. It garnered sales from 6,000, Pozdoll says, adding that Fannie May had provided no incentives to get people to sign up for its e-mail.

With the Fannie May brand alive and sweet as ever, Alpine also plans to re-open 40 Fannie May stores by the end of this year. Meantime, e-mail and the web site will keep the keep the brand in front of customers, Pozdoll says.

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