Consumers' cough-cold agenda influenced by retailers, suppliers

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT Not even the threat of an H1N1 flu pandemic could shake today’s recession-minded employee from losing any hours for something like a cold or flu. And not even the Department of Health, which consistently advised sick people to stay home, could change that. Not this year.

(THE NEWS: New survey sheds light on cough-cold medicine purchases. For the full story, click here)

The first, and most important, takeaway from this survey is that more than half of cough-cold customers (54%) have no idea what medicine they’re going to buy until they’re at the shelf. That spells opportunity; and the retailer or supplier who cuts through the clutter is going to be the real winner here.

For example, McNeil Consumer’s Perfect Measure concept (single dosage unit for children) across several of its pediatric lines addresses a concern for many parents — “Now that I know I shouldn’t give a cough-or-cold medicine to my toddler, how much should I give to my four-year-old or older child?” And the “Perfect Measure” logo really stands out across those products.

Or at retail — CVS has created a pediatric destination center for mom (expanding some 16 linear feet in at least one location) that breaks kids cough-cold away from its inherent adult cough-cold adjacency. And it’s the first gondola facing the consumer as she approaches the pharmacy. And it’s not just kids cough-cold, it’s also analgesics like the acetaminophen or ibuprofen you can still give baby to help relieve a fever.

And Walgreens has certainly been looking to improve their shopability across all categories through its CCR merchandising program — a program that specifically cuts down on the number of choices presented in an effort to make each core category an easier and stress-free shopping experience.

For the remaining 46% of consumers who are making a planned purchase, perhaps because of a coupon, but certainly due to some consumer advertising, the brands they’re buying are in fact the top brands in the category. Vicks Nyquil is the leading branded liquid cold medicine ($89.7 million across food, drug mass without Walmart for 52 weeks ended Jan. 24 courtesy Information Resources Inc.), followed by Children’s Tylenol ($41.1 million) and Theraflu ($33 million). There isn’t as clean a direct correlation across cough medicines (which could include cough drops, cough syrup and cold tablets), but you get the idea. And perhaps that presents a different kind of opportunity — whether through couponing or just tried-and-true advertising, a lot of moms have made their purchasing decisions long before they touch the pharmacy door.

Some other interesting tidbits from the full survey:

  • More than 54% of employers took extra precautions this year because of H1N1. The No. 1 “extra precaution?” Hand sanitizer; and
  • 9-in-10 employees knew a co-worker who came into work sick this season. The leading reaction? “I feel at risk,” suggesting that 90% of workers were also looking to take such extra precautions this season as buying a personal hand sanitizer.
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