Coronavirus taking huge bite out of candy sales at the busiest time of the year

Aunt Charlotte's Candies in Merchantville.
Photo credit Mike DeNardo/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) The week before Easter is normally prime time for candy shops. But coronavirus restrictions have turned this holiday upside-down for one longtime confectioner in South Jersey. 

For 100 years, customers have browsed the peanut butter eggs and chocolate-covered pretzels at Aunt Charlotte's Candies in Merchantville. But not this year, because of the pandemic.

"Closing the physical store two weeks before Easter, it's disastrous, basically,” said co-owner Randy Oakford. 

Oakford said 40 percent of the store's annual revenue normally comes from Easter sales. And while she's had to lay off two-thirds of her 35-person staff, the ones who are working have never been busier, filling phone orders for curbside pickup, local delivery, or shipping. 

She said the phone system crashed earlier in the week because 276 calls came in at opening time.  

"It was just unbelievable. We couldn't do any orders because all we were doing was answering the phone,” she said. 

Still, she said this year's sales will be only about a third of a normal Easter. 

Oakford, a third-generation owner, said her father would always say that two businesses were recession-proof: liquor and candy.

"I guess those are the two things that make people happy,” she added. 

And she said the customers who get through are thankful that Aunt Charlotte's is able to provide a measure of normalcy during a time that is anything but normal.