HEALTH

Dollar channel expanding its promotional horizons with this strong cough, cold and flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

COMMERCE, Calif. — Fueled by strong store growth and increased household penetration, dollar stores have been stepping outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of consumer trips that have historically belonged to retail pharmacy. 

For example, 99 Cents Only Stores on Tuesday promoted its stores as the cough/cold destination of choice for consumers this season. "99 Cents Only Stores understands that many people are unable to afford expensive medicines, vitamins and sanitizers to help protect against this particularly harsh strain of the virus," the dollar operator stated. "99 Cents Only Stores provides a one-stop shopping experience for your treatment and preventive efforts against the flu. For a buck each or less, 99 Cents Only Stores carry cough and cold medicines, flu fighters, vitamins, cough drops, hand soaps and sanitizers, tissue," the chain added. "Being on a budget does not mean that you have to be under the weather this season."

Whether it’s promotions like these that are driving cough/cold consumers into the dollar channel, or the sluggish economy that has driven those consumers in search of greater values is unclear. What is clear is the dollar channel has been capturing more customers and more trips even as the drug channel loses both customers and trips. 

According to Nielsen Homescan data published Friday, household penetration for dollar stores through mid-2012 stood at 66%, up from 59% in 2011. Conversely, drug channel penetration was 78%, down from 86%, for the same time periods. 

"The dollar store channel, comprised of retailers like Family Dollar, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Fred’s and 99 Cents Only, continues to expand channel shopper bases via new store openings," Nielsen noted. "These low-priced, limited assortment retailers are very entrenched among low-income households."  

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Rising cost of cigarettes and increased awareness over health risks driving more smokers to make quit attempt

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — New results from a national online public opinion poll of Americans 18 and older show that 34% of smokers plan to quit smoking as a New Year’s resolution in 2013, as compared to only 18% who reported that quitting smoking was a New Year’s resolution in 2012. Increasing costs of cigarettes (67%) and concerns about the health risks associated with smoking (58%) were two of the key factors motivating smokers to contemplate quitting as a resolution for 2013.

The poll, conducted on behalf of Legacy, a national tobacco education foundation, found that on average, those who committed to quit in 2012 remained smoke free for just about a month. For more than half (59%) of those quitters, it was the longest they had ever gone without a cigarette since they started smoking.

“Research has shown that most smokers who quit on Jan. 1 struggle to stay quit as the days and weeks go on,” stated Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of Legacy. “Many smokers may have begun their New Year’s quit attempt and have already relapsed and that’s okay. We need to encourage them to build a quit plan and then try to quit again. On average, research has shown that smokers make up to 6-9 attempts before they finally quit for good, which is why it is so important to remind smokers to quit with support and methods that have proven success.”

While it is positive news that more of the surveyed smokers are planning to quit in 2013 than in 2012, data reveals that many of them are still overlooking resources and practices that can lead to successful quitting.

For example, as many as 53% of the smokers surveyed have not talked about quitting smoking with their healthcare providers in the last 12 months. Using over-the-counter and prescription medications — both nicotine replacement therapies and non-nicotine prescription medications — can improve a smoker’s chance of quitting.

Of those surveyed, only 39% used a non-prescription product like gums, lozenges or patches, during their last quit attempt. Even fewer, 13%, used a prescription medication to help them quit during this most recent attempt.

“The fact that more than half of smokers are still not speaking with their HCPs about quitting shows that we have a significant missed opportunity on our hands. Healthcare providers play a critical role in reaching smokers with support and resources for quitting,” Healton said.

Among smokers who did speak with their HCPs about quitting in the last 12 months, nearly four in ten believe that the discussion motivated them to quit (38%) or helped them to take the next step towards quitting (35%). “Overcoming the initial barrier of speaking with a primary care physician, pharmacist or dentist is critical. Once the conversation does get going, the outcomes can be extremely helpful to bolstering the quit attempts and ensuring the results are long-lasting,” Healton said.

Among the 45% of smokers surveyed who did speak with their HCP about quitting smoking, many reported that during conversations in the last 12 months, their HCP commonly recommended nicotine replacement products (49%) and prescription medications (49%) to help them quit. However, most have yet to adopt recommended treatments. 

Nearly 64% of those who tried to quit in the past year prepared for only a week ahead of time, at most. Giving up smoking is very difficult; having a plan and a support network including a healthcare provider and tools lined up in advance can help considerably. The poll showed that 69% of smokers are thinking about quitting within the next year, with a majority, 79%, of this group either in the process of quitting already or planning to do so within the next six months.


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Study: Consumers equate high cost of flu shot to low risk of getting the flu

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW ORLEANS — Consumers measure the risk of contracting the flu to the price of their flu shot, according to research out of Tulane University released Friday. 

The study found that consumers make judgments about their risk of catching any illness based on the cost of its medication. The higher the price, the less they think they’re at risk, stated co-author Janet Schwartz, assistant professor of marketing at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.

“Your chance of winning at blackjack has nothing to do with how big the payout is, and most people know that,” Schwartz said. “But when it comes to understanding what prices reflect for medicine, people look at the price, and they do think that it somehow tells them something about their own risk of getting a disease. In reality, those two factors are completely independent.”

Researchers conducted several surveys to gauge consumers’ reactions to different medications based on cost and perceived risk. For example, they presented different health messages about getting a flu shot, emphasizing individual risk in one scenario and the larger public health risks in another. They told some that the vaccine cost $25 and others $125. Even though all were told the cost would be covered by insurance, those in the high-price group felt that they were at a lower risk of getting the flu.

Researchers found that consumers instinctively believed that important medication like flu vaccine should be affordably priced to be widely accessible. When priced high and perceivably out of reach for some, consumers inferred that the medicine must not be all that necessary and the risk of getting the illness must be lower. 

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