Easing boomers’ pain spells merch opportunity

NEW YORK —As more baby boomers approach their senior years—the oldest of the baby boomers turn 64 this year—the need for chronic pain relief increasingly will become a common denominator among this key demographic. With that older demographic comes an increased incidence of arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes-related neuropathy or any number of age-related chronic pain issues.

And as more customers shop the analgesics set more often in search of a solution, it becomes more important to keep those shelves—both internal and external analgesics—stocked with new products.

That makes merchandising specifically against chronic pain an ideal incremental opportunity, noted Gregg Harwood, president of Thermionics. According to recent Thermionics research, 80% of consumers who are treating for chronic pain not only purchase multiple solutions across internal analgesics, external rubs, heat/ice therapy and body support devices, but also shop those sets on a regular basis. Such drug-free solutions as heat/ice packs, for example, have been trending up as of late. Overall, the category climbed 6.5% to $148.6 million for the 52 weeks ended April 18 across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart), according to SymphonyIRI Group data.

And right now, more times than not, those consumers are walking away from that shopping trip empty-handed. “Two-out-of-3 shoppers are walking that [pain relief] aisle and not making a purchase,” Harwood said. “They’re looking for something and not buying.”

And soothing that pain is more than likely a moving target for those consumers. “There’s always something. Each person really has to design [his or her] own regimen that deals with that pain because it’s unique to [him or her],” Harwood added. That incessant need to find a new or different solution should be driving consumers toward external analgesic items, especially as the warning labels of many internal analgesics advise patients to discontinue use or to see a doctor if the pain-relief need persists for more than 10 days.

There may be an opportunity for a chronic-pain management destination center within the self-care space, much like there is a destination center at many retailers focused around diabetes-related products. For example, an endcap dedicated to addressing chronic pain needs that’s regularly refreshed may not only help place additional products into the market basket, it could create a need for a repeat visit from that chronic pain sufferer, just to check out what’s new.

“The pain doesn’t go away, you just have to find a new way to manage it, so [chronic sufferers] want new options,” Harwood said. And that necessarily doesn’t mean they stop buying products that fold into their traditional pain-relieving regimen, Harwood added. Oftentimes it just means they’re placing that one additional pain-relief item in their baskets.

Heat and ice packs sales *In millions† Versus year-ago period Source: SymphonyIRI Group for 52 weeks ended April 18 across FDMx
BRANDDOLLAR SALES* %CHANGE†
Thermacare$49.57.5%
Store brand47.939.2
Ace6.2-13.8
Thermipaq5.947.0
Bed Buddy3.6-45.4

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