The oral care category is vast, but which products should c-stores stock and which should they leave to the chemists? Matt Chittock investigates

According to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, the UK oral care market is worth an impressive £815m. And although many small retailers have traditionally been cautious of the category, there's evidence that opening their offer wide could make overall sales sparkle.

"Oral care is certainly an important category for independent retailers and represents 5% of our total cash and carry business in personal care sales," explains Richard Booth, senior negotiator at Bestway Cash and Carry Group. "For Bestway, it's about the same size as our washing and bathing sectors."  

Because few retailers have much space to showcase their oral health offer, c-stores need to be focusing on getting the core range right. Booth says that toothpaste is the best-selling product in the category and accounts for 62% of sales. Mouthwash accounts for 18%, and toothbrushes and denture care stand at 16% and 18% respectively.

Booth's figures reveal that customers are on the lookout for value as well as trusted brands, with pound lines dominating the top sellers. Booth believes that as more brands pull out the stops to offer bargain rrps, retailers will see more discount lines emerging.

"Our best-selling line, Colgate UCP toothpaste, which is pricemarked at a pound, has been a tremendous success and represents good value for money on a leading brand. That makes it great news for the convenience channel," Booth continues. "We know that some of our other best-selling toothpastes will be responding with pricemarking on some even bigger packs, which is sure to drive category sales further."


One sticking point for retailers looking to stock the right lines is the sheer choice of products available in the category.

Mintel says that the trend for super-segmentation is driving value growth in the oral care sector. This means that in the last 10 years consumers have seen endless variants on key products jostle for space in the bathroom cabinet. These new products are aimed at increasingly specialist markets, from toothbrushes that promise to eliminate plaque, to toothpastes that strengthen tooth enamel.

GSK recommends that in addition to everyday care ranges for adults and children, larger convenience stores may be able to stock extra care products (like those designed for sensitive teeth), beauty products (such as whitening toothpastes) and selected premium products in the oral care fixture.

Of course, whether retailers choose to buy into these specialist lines depends on the individual needs of their customers, and whether they are willing to pay a premium at the till.

If retailers want to experiment with increasing their range then mouthwash might be a good place to start. GSK says that mouthwash penetration now stands at 62.5%, as customers begin to buy into the idea of purchasing several oral health products offered by an umbrella brand.

This year, Listerine is hoping that new Listerine Total Care Sensitive mouthwash will prove to be a lucrative proposition. According to Mintel, the new line should have a strong appeal because 55% of people in the UK suffer from the problem of sensitive teeth.

"We understand that tooth sensitivity is a major source of discomfort and a significant cause of concern for a growing number of consumers," says Listerine's senior brand manager, Naureen Mohammed.

"As those who are prone to tooth sensitivity are on a constant lookout for valuable adjuncts to their brushing routines, we wanted to deliver a mouthwash that meets the standard they expect along with protection from the multiple causes of sensitivity."

Listerine is not alone. GSK is also dedicated to adding value for c-store customers of a sensitive disposition with its Sensodyne Total Care F toothpaste. A £1.5 million advertising campaign early in the year, which included banner ads on Facebook, promoted the brand's new improved flavour. GSK has promised it will engage in more marketing activity for Sensodyne Total Care later in 2010.
top 10
1Colgate 2Sensodyne 3Listerine 4Aquafresh 5Dentyl 6Oral B 7Macleans 8Corsodyl 9Plax 10Wisdom Source: Kantar WorldPanel
Brush up on the market
Toothbrushes may not top the category, but they're still a core part of consumers' daily dental care routine. Mintel estimates that 223 million manual toothbrushes are sold in the UK every year. Jo Ladbroke, oral care business leader at Procter & Gamble, says that now the recession seems to be over, consumers are more willing to invest in better-quality manual toothbrushes. "A key current trend in the oral health sector is the positive turnaround of the manual category with consumers trading up as we exit the recession," she says. "During the recession we saw value sales in the manual market decline. However, it's now becoming clear that this trend is ending and consumers are willing to spend more money on manual toothbrushes." To drive value growth in the category and encourage trade-up, Oral-B has launched the new Oral-B Pro-Expert range of manual toothbrushes. The range incorporates Oral-B's most successful manual product series, Oral-B CrossAction Complete and Oral-B Pulsar, offering variants aimed at eliminating plaque, improving gum health and cleaning the tongue. Ladbroke also points to the growing rechargeable toothbrush market as a way for more adventurous retailers with the right customer base to boost till-ring. She says that the rechargeable market is worth £59.2m, and with household penetration in the UK standing at 26%, the demand for rechargeable refills looks set to grow. "A four-pack of refills provides the same cash profit as 53 cans of Coke," she says.
retailer’s view
"At our store oral care does well and we have a whole gondola devoted to the category. Price is really important to our customers, often more so than brands. Pricemarked packs always do well. A top-seller is Colgate UCP toothpaste, pricemarked at a pound. "Although we stock quite a broad range battery-powered toothbrushes, for instance demand isn't there for premium stuff such as whitening toothpaste. However, we do listen to our customers; we didn't think we'd be able to sell denture cream until a customer asked for it." Garming Cheung, Brinsley Convenience Store and Pharmacy, Nottingham
top tips
Make the most of available space. Ensure the correct space is given to toothpaste, brushes and rinse, with paste getting at least 50% of the area.  Get the layout right. The shelf layout should be: toothbrushes, toothpastes and then mouthwashes. Keep brands together. Merchandise by brand first, then by segment (brand enables the shopper to navigate easily). Position by price. Prices for the category should flow left to right and down to up, from good to better, followed by best.  Eye level is buy level. The best-selling shelf is the one just below eye level. Position new products or growth categories on this shelf. Source: Yvonne Reid, trading controller, Nisa-Today's 
ones to watch...
Touch sensitive About 55% of people in the UK suffer from sensitive teeth, often caused by several factors, which is why Listerine launched Total Care Sensitive mouthwash to combat tooth sensitivity from multiple causes. rrp: £2.49 for 250ml tel: 01628 821327 Make a wish Aquafresh is targeting mums with its latest on-pack promtion, 'Win Mum's Wish List'. Prizes range from pairs of cinema tickets to garden makeovers, shopping sprees and a holiday for the whole family. rrp: £1.05 for 50ml tel: 0845 762 6637 Freshen up Consumers looking to get up close and personal this summer can now reach for Binaca, which claims to be the first ever aerosol-based breath freshener. It hits these shores courtesy of US brand Dr Fresh. rrp: £2.49 per pack tel: 01628 550 812 Kick it There's no escape from the World Cup, not even in the bathroom as Oral B joins in the celebrations with a loyalty promotion on certain toothbrush products. Consumers can collect points on pack to redeem against a choice of football prizes. tel: 0800 7311 792 Gum smarts Corsodyl's bid to increase awareness of the importance of looking after the nation's gums continues on its website The site features gum disease facts, five steps to gum enlightenment plus info on Corsodyl products. tel: 0845 762 6637