Putting wellness on the back-to-school list
According to a July 2013 poll of more than 500 AccentHealth viewers with children of school age, kid’s annual physicals and back-to-school shopping go hand-in-hand. Approximately 75% of respondents take their child for a back-to-school physical. Of those, 4-out-of-5 do so at least four weeks before the first day of school-the time at which the majority of viewers indicate their back-to-school shopping kicks off.
This may explain shoppers’ growing focus on health and wellness when planning for back-to-school. Behind supplies and apparel, health and wellness products rank third in terms of commonly purchased categories. One-fifth of respondents indicate they plan to buy more preventive care items for their child this year compared to last. Purchasing health and hygiene products for back-to-school is greatest among those with children entering or in college, with 57% purchasing personal care items and 36% buying OTCs and vitamins.
While respondents forecast that overall spending will be up from last year, economic factors are still top of mind. The drivers when selecting a venue(s) for back-to-school shopping are product price and sale offers. Additionally, more than half of respondents say they will shop for sales more this year compared with last.
When it comes to where to shop, mass merchandisers emerge as the most popular destination for back-to-school. However, respondents signal that there is an opportunity for pharmacies to be utilized in the future. While only 38% of respondents report shopping at drug stores for back-to-school, 66% report they are likely to shop at a pharmacy for back-to-school in the future. With cost savings playing an important role, 9-out-of-10 viewers indicate that coupons would incentivize them to try a new store for their back-to-school needs.
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Specific baby segment sales grow at drug channel
Numbers can be deceiving in the baby category. While overall category sales are down, the drug channel is seeing nice increases in specific segments within the category. The numbers suggest that drug retailers could be missing an opportunity.
"Diapers are being consumed as an online category, but there are other growth areas in the category," said Mark Deuschle, VP business development and chief marketing officer at GMDC. Baby feeding products dollar sales, while down at supermarkets, were ahead 3% in drug stores last year. Dollar sales of baby accessories were up 8% last year in drug stores, while supermarkets saw a double-digit decrease in the segment. Sales of baby toiletries also were ahead of the industry average at drug stores.
Some of the categories with the most significant sales dollar increases in the drug channel were formula and bath products (both ahead 5%), thermometers (up 45%) and teething remedies (up 10%).
There’s a good reason for drug retailers to pay more attention to the category. "Mothers with young children tend to shop fewer outlets, thus the opportunity to build basket size and trip loyalty through this category is high," said David Luth, principal at Radian Group. "Retailers should have broad coverage across most baby categories, even with a limited assortment in some of the ancillary categories like toys, accessories or clothes."
Luth said all baby products — including formula, food, feeding products and toys, as well as OTC and toiletries — should be merchandised in one destination department. Signage and a frequent shopper "baby club" aspect can contribute to making the section a destination department and encourage customer loyalty.
One new product in the category is Li’l Helper Baby Bottle Holder, showcased at the GMDC/FMI Health and Wellness @ Retail 2013 conference in June. It’s a bottle holder designed to free up mom’s hands while building baby’s natural grip reflex. The ergonomic design matches baby’s natural nursing posture, the company noted. In addition to supporting a feeding bottle, the product can serve additional purposes, such as a toy, rattle or teething device.
Activities, characters win over segment
"Toy dollar sales are up 4% in the drug store channel," said David Luth, principal at Radian Group, a market research firm. "The chains that do the best in this category are those that make an intentional decision to be in the business. That doesn’t mean that they have to devote 80 ft. to the category, but if they devote 20 ft., they should do a great job with the space they give it. They have to have the right toys at competitive prices."
Activity toys are a key segment for the drug channel. Dollar sales of activity toys — which include action figures, vehicles, construction toys, and activity kits and crafts — increased 18% in the drug channel for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 25, 2012, according to GMDC /Nielsen Hierarchy Channel. Dollar sales of toy models were up 12% and educational toys were up 7%, according to the report.
"Construction toys are one of the biggest growth categories in the past two years," said Adrienne Appell, a spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association. "Crafts continue to be very popular with both parents and kids." Crafts that allow kids to make their own art supplies or personalize their electronics or school supplies are a big trend. "For younger kids, anything with bling or sparkle is really popular," Appell said. "There are also a lot more crafts on the market aimed at tweens and teens. Hair and nail craft kits really appeal to this age group."
Licensing is also integral to the category, so a good toy department depends on on-trend licensed character products. Appell said that One Direction, My Little Pony and Cabbage Patch Kids products will all be popular this year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, she said, are "back with a vengeance."
Creating a destination category means generating excitement for the category year round. "Toys naturally get more space around the holidays, but the category could also get an endcap during the summer months with a ‘summer fun’ promotion that includes activity kits or a ‘family fun’ promotion around games," Luth said.
Merchandising small travel activities near trial size health and beauty aids is another way to spark incremental sales, while giving toys a higher in-store profile. "When consumers are pressed for time, one-stop shopping is a big draw," Appell said. "Shoppers want to be able to pick up their prescription, some snacks and an inexpensive birthday gift for a party that their kid is attending tomorrow in one location."