Provide shoppers with the toiletry essentials they need, when they want them, and the category can be a beauty for the c-store retailer
When it comes to long-tail product lines in the c-store sector, health and beauty has the kind of epic appendage that would give one of the dragons from Game of Thrones a run for its money.
Yet as brands focus on spawning an ever-expanding range of variants on existing products to entice consumers, c-store managers are all too often left scratching their heads over what to get on-shelf when space is at a premium.
This problem is compounded by the fact that health and beauty is a definite must-stock. Some 34% of convenience consumers go in-store specifically to shop the category (Europanel) - and while it’s not quite the monster seller that food to go has become, it’s still worth a cool £120m in the channel, according to Kantar.
Current convenience superstars include haircare (up 3.7% in the channel), shower (up 5.6%) and liquid hand wash (up 7.4%), according to Partners for Growth figures.
Men are also a driving force in the category, with men’s deodorants, haircare and hair styling showing 5% growth apiece.
Always is aiming to make its line-up better value for c-store shoppers with a £2.29 pricemarked pack across the Always Ultra SKUs.
“Pricemarking is a key opportunity for independents and this trend shows no sign of slowing as shoppers continue to seek the best value in all product areas,” says brand manager Christina Turner.
“In fact, we know that 48% of shoppers would be encouraged to switch to a new brand in order to purchase a price marked pack (him!).”
Getting closer to a smarter health and beauty strategy for your store means understanding exactly why shoppers are coming in to buy. According to Blake Gladman, senior analyst at HIM Research & Consulting, consumers are mainly on the distress mission when seeking out health and beauty in convenience. “We’ve seen an increase in supermarkets and discounters on the high street who are stealing the ‘planned’ top-up from convenience. So convenience now has seen an increase in the ‘distressed’ top-up mission,” he says.
“[In the health and beauty category] these distress products are the classic items that people need but run out of: lines such as toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap, shower gel, feminine hygiene and razors.”
There in an emergency
Susan Connolly, business development manager for the Connolly Group of Spar stores, confirms that distress is the main health and beauty mission in her stores.
“Basically, people come in and buy products from our range because they’ve just run out of something,” she says.
“It tends to be that ‘Okay - I need more shampoo, I’ll get some more when I’m down the shops’ purchase.”
Susan says that she’s shaped her selection according to what her customers need - which means nailing all the basics with a small section of shelf space that she sets aside for core products such as shampoos, hair gels and babycare.
“That feels about right for us,” she says. “About a year ago we had a trial in a bid to try to expand and promote the category, but I think what we have is right, to be honest.
“Price is really important for this category, and I think that if customers are doing more of a planned health and beauty shop they’ll just go to the local Boots instead.”
Small is beautiful, too, for Kate Mills from Heath Stores in Horsmonden in Kent. With a local pharmacy close-by, Kate stocks a compact range of health and beauty products to avoid cannibalising the neighbouring businesses’ custom.
“We have a pharmacy in the village and we really don’t want to compete with them - but having said that, as a convenience store retailer you do have to stock something in health and beauty. After all, there are people who want to come in and do a one-stop shop and don’t want to go anywhere else,” she says.
“Also, we’re open earlier and close later than the pharmacy, which is where we pick up the business in health and beauty. It’s all distress purchases - people coming in because they’ve run out of something.”
Cover the essentials
Kate says that she stocks “the basics”. That means one representative line from each main sub-category that are typically from “the brands, but the not-too-expensive brands”.
On the shelf this translates as well-known and easily recognisable value-for-money names such as Radox, Head & Shoulders and Alberto. There’s also disposable razor blades and Gillette shaving gel aimed at men who need to shift the stubble but haven’t got time to hit the supermarket.
Nappies count as part of the store’s core range, and although they’re not high volume by any means, Kate keeps them behind the counter for any parents caught short when the pharmacy’s shut.
“We keep them behind the counter just because they’re so bulky, but people do ask for them,” she says.
Kate advises that getting health and beauty right means taking a good look to see what you can offer to complement the competition without necessarily trying to beat them on price.
“It’s about looking at what’s available in your area and finding out what customers need,” she says.
“When people come to us they don’t necessarily expect a massive choice, and they won’t be put off if we don’t have their favourite brand, they’ll just pick up the next closest thing.”
With the UK’s retail focus moving away from big supermarkets and towards the convenience sector, brands are already developing health and beauty products with this market squarely in mind.
Rory Fegan, strategy director at DewGibbons + Partners, says that the drive to create products that don’t take up much space on the shelf or in the shopping bag will create some interesting mash-ups.
“There’s already some interesting innovation in the convenience space, illustrated by the rise of single-serve packs that cut down on space used on shelf, in the handbag or pocket - and by products that blend pharma with lifestyle,” he points out.
“For instance, Help Remedies [simple healthcare products for headaches, bodyaches, stuffy noses, allergies, sleep issues, cuts and blisters] is a great example of a brand that’s made a distress purchase a desirable purchase, creating products that consumers seek out, fall in love with, and tell others about.”
He adds: “Format will continue to drive sales, too, re-imagining successful innovations for health. Just think, what would a Lemsip or Berocca version of Robinson’s Squash’d look like?”
Add a little drama
Meanwhile, expect more brands to tap into the burgeoning appeal of online beauty bloggers and add the opportunity for some serious in-store theatre. “In-store theatre and technology will come to play a much bigger part in the consumer decision-making process, driving small but ever more frequent purchases, and causing people to re-appraise their ‘limited choice’ perceptions of the convenience offer,” says Fegan.
“Think beauty blogger Zoella talking you through the benefits of the latest eye-liner via augmented reality, creating convenience engagement as never before.”
Make the most of the space you have
If space is in short supply, consider multi-use products that appeal to more than one group of customers.
“Within the adult health and beauty market the Johnson’s Baby portfolio has a strong affection with female adults, with up to 40% of sales being attributed to this group of shoppers buying for their own beauty regime (Johnson & Johnson internal research),” says Andrew Freestone, commercial director for SHS Sales & Marketing UK.
“Research has also shown that almost 70% of shoppers buying Johnson’s Baby Talc don’t have children, while more than half of all Baby Oil purchases are from people without families (Kantar).”
“Stocking these kinds of products - which have true cross-over appeal - can help maximise the baby care market while providing a segue into a standard toiletry range.”
Nick Widdowson, merchandising controller at Partners for Growth, highlights the importance of letting customers know they can shop the category. “Unfortunately, 18% of shoppers do not know that toiletries are sold in their local c-store. As awareness can be low, and purchase is on impulse, retailers need to make it obvious to their customers that they stock toiletries.”
He suggests eye-catching POS, clip-strips and making a big deal of promotional opportunities such as Mother’s Day and Movember.
Fancy a nice relaxing bubble bath? According to Nicola Barrass, brand manager at private label specialists McBride, today’s consumers just don’t have the time.
“Having a bath is now seen as an experiential experience rather than a functional habit, therefore there has been a switch in the use of bath products to shower products,” she explains.
This switch has helped shape the washing and bathing sector, with the shower sub-category growing 5.6% in convenience, according to Partners for Growth.
“This change in habit has also resulted in in-shower moisturising remaining a key trend within the shower market,” says Barrass.
And while customers expect more shower products with extra functional benefits, they’re also demanding ever-lower prices.
“Promotion will play an important role in the market going forward,” says Barrass.
Revamped Radox adds ingredients
Bath-time favourite Radox is putting the emphasis on pampering with its new Feel Indulged range featuring sensual ingredients such as orchid, shea butter and ginger. The line heralds a relaunch for the whole portfolio, and is getting a hefty £2m promotional push.
Head & Shoulders extends range
To build a buzz around its two new variants, Head & Shoulders has created limited-edition illustrated bottles. The new lines, Smooth & Silky and Colour Care, are both aimed at helping customers get great-looking hair while caring for their scalps.
Hayfever sales are not to be sniffed at
With the allergy season upon us Benadryl is one brand that can help hay fever sufferers with their summer sniffles. Worth more than £530,000 across retail channels it secures a quarter of all category sales through convenience (IRI).
Tena Lady in advertising push
Tena Lady has embarked on a £3m marketing campaign, comprising TV advertising and an on-pack promotion. The ‘Never Be Afraid to Laugh’ campaign offers consumers the chance to win an iPad Air 2 and designer case every day. The daily prize draw runs from now until July 31.