Toiletries for women may not be a massive market for convenience stores, but who will be there when the deodorant runs dry or shampoo runs out? The c-store owner, of course, with a small but well thought-out range of bathroom essentials.

While most women will buy their toiletries as part of their weekly supermarket shop or during a trip to high street specialists such as Boots, many of those same women will count on you for distress purchases, and that means you have to offer what they want.

If you had hoped that the next generation of body-conscious teens would change all that, you’d better think again. That’s because research by Mintel has found that showering is too much like hard work for today’s teenagers. The Teens’ and Tweens’ Beauty and Personal Care UK 2009 report found that today’s 11- to 19-year-olds are more likely to use perfume and mascara every day than a bodywash or shower gel.

Just before Christmas it was announced that one of the biggest players, Unilever, was launching a Dove bodywash product formulated to protect skin from the damage caused by showering. The company describes it as a “ground-breaking innovation”.

Such a specialist product would probably not be the first item on a c-store’s stock list, which is why it is being launched exclusively in Morrisons before being rolled out to other multiples as well as places like Boots. Probably more up your street is the newly launched Dove Visible Effects, comprising body lotion and handcream.

The products use a patented formula to moisturise all three layers of skin rather than just the surface layer. The 250ml body lotion and 75ml hand cream will be backed by a £2m media campaign during May and June.

The sharp end

New products cause a stir in any market so one to watch out for is Gillette’s new Venus two-in-one line. Launching next month, the Venus Breeze SPA is described as easier to use than existing Venus razors. It has built-in shave gel bars that provide moisturising lather for a smooth shave, without the need for separate shave cream. These gel bars are infused with white tea, which is renowned for its skin-soothing properties.

Paul Lettice, trade communications manager at Gillette brand owner P&G, reckons it will appeal to women who are looking for an “all-encompassing system”. He explains: “The new product slots into the market as a razor which meets consumer needs for convenience while providing an easy and clean shave under the trusted Venus brand.”

According to IRI data, the female razor market is worth £68m and Gillette Venus has a 50%-plus share of that. Not one to rest on its laurels, there is more from the brand via the launch of a special-edition Venus Embrace. This offers women five blades for an “amazingly close shave and dramatically smooth skin” plus it comes in a new purple colour. A flatter pivoting head which flexes around women’s curves claims to remove virtually every hair while a ‘protective ribbon of moisture’ adds glide to the shaving process. It also has a soft gel handle for extra grip.

Says Lettice: “In a market where consumers are brand loyal and competition for advanced products is intense, Venus continues to focus on satisfying consumer needs and providing exciting and relevant products.

“Retailers should ensure that they cash in on the new Venus products with clear merchandising and the fully comprehensive POS toolkit available from Gillette.”

The launches will be backed by the largest advertising spend in Venus’ nine-year history. Kicking off on February 1, there will be support for both Venus Embrace and Breeze SPA across print and TV media.

Meanwhile, Jo Thiselton-Dyer, retail account manager for Super-Max, reckons the company is rapidly earning itself a name as an innovator in disposable razor blades. She explains: “Not only were we the first to launch a triple-blade disposable razor (Super-Max3), we followed this with the launch of the first four-blade disposable for females, the Syrine, and have now launched a range of razors, gels and foams specifically for the growing £1 zone category.”

She adds that the company is enjoying strong sales growth and now has listings with One-Stop, Costcutter, Nisa-Today’s, Booker, Batley/Bestway, Palmer & Harvey and Makro, as well as with regional wholesalers and cash and carries.

“Not only do we manufacture the £1 price-point range and triple- and four-blade products, but we also offer a value range of entry products, perfect for price-conscious customers in the current economic situation.”

The £1 range is growing all the time. Products already available include a five-pack twin blade, Kwik3 triple blade and Kwik3 female system with five cartridges.

Girl’s talk

Finally, you can’t mention the female bathroom category without discussing femcare. According to IRI figures (52 weeks ending February 2009) the category has annual sales worth nearly £270m.

Tampax is the market leader with a 63.9% share worth about £61m. Last year the Tampax range was boosted with the launch of a premium product Tampax Pearl. This features a pearlescent applicator which has been designed to give a more comfortable insertion and positioning. There is also a new absorbent braid to help prevent leaks.

P&G’s Lettice says product technology is a key reason for Tampax’s success. The Pearl product has already done well in the US and he expects its success to be repeated here.

Lettice comments: “Femcare offers a strong opportunity for sales as it focuses directly on women’s basic needs, and has a high purchase rate as an essential item. We believe that there is significant potential profit waiting to be unlocked in stores, as this is a category which doesn’t always receive the attention that its scale demands.”