It’s the depth of winter and freezing outside. Your shelves are full of soups and cough and cold remedies, but what about moisturiser for extra-dry skin? According to Unilever, stocking beauty products according to the season can be an important way to attract those all-important female shoppers. The company reckons that women make up 69% of toiletries shoppers in the c-store sector, with most over 45 and fairly affluent, spending £8.87 a visit.

However, retailers are missing out on more than £1m-worth of sales, according to the manufacturer’s research. It reports that 18% of shoppers don’t even realise that their local c-store sells toiletries. These important female shoppers can’t find what they want, either because the bathroom products are out of stock, or are hidden behind the counter to prevent theft. (In which case, they need to be given clear signage.)
Small is beautiful

The right pack size is also crucial when it comes to targeting female customers, says Julie McCleave, senior skin category manager at Unilever UK. "Most shoppers are on foot so it's better to stock 250ml versions rather than 500ml."

Indeed, it lists smaller sizes as some of its top sellers for women, among them Dove Summer Glow Normal Lotion 250ml, Elvive UV Filter 250ml and Vaseline Intensive Care Hand & Nail Dry Lotion 75ml.

McCleave also backs the idea of stocking seasonal products as well as the core range if there's room on shelf, such as gradual tanning moisturisers in summer and dry skin creams in winter.

Unilever's Partners for Growth plan also advises merchandising women's ranges away from the men's so that shoppers can find what they want. This is because while women make up the majority of the sales in the sector, they also have distinct needs. For example, there's little point in stocking men's bubble bath. Having a long hot soak in the tub is much preferred by women, according to Mintel.

Most oral care purchases are also made by women, points out Jon Sandy, oral care category controller at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK). Not only that, Mintel reckons that women are more likely to pick up premium products such as whitening toothpastes and toothbrushes with tongue cleaners than men. The research group reports that men are more lax in their oral care routine - they tend to use a toothpaste and brush and eschew mouthwash and dental floss.

Women, though, often use products to avoid gum disease and to get rid of plaque, so it's worth considering expanding the oral care section if there's room.

GSK's core products such as Aquafresh Fresh & Minty, Sensodyne Total Care F and Macleans Freshmint & Whitening are available in smaller pack sizes (such as 45ml or 50ml), which Sandy says are most appropriate for convenience stores.

"In c-stores, clear merchandising is essential and the focus should be on meeting the consumer need states such as everyday care (regular oral healthcare products for adults and children), extra care (sensitivity, gum care) and beauty (whitening)," explains Sandy. "As there is an increasing move towards promoting oral care regimes all these segments should be covered and it's best to concentrate on market-leading

TV-supported brands."

In the shampoo and conditioner sector, the brands showing good growth are those that tap into the trends seen throughout the beauty sector - naturalness and affordable luxury. Herbal Essences is doing well, thanks in part to the natural associations of its ingredients, while Tresemmé remains popular because its salon-positioned marketing gives the feel of luxury at a value price.

Keeping on the natural theme, there are also new variants in the deodorants sector which could tempt female shoppers. Sanex Naturprotect is an alcohol-free deodorant which contains the mineral alum that works to counteract bacteria and offer 24-hour protection against body odours. It comes in two variants - for normal skin, and for sensitive skin.

Only natural

Research by the Sanex brand recently found that one-third of respondents said they would definitely opt for a more natural deodorant if it was easily available.

That's good news for hypoallergenic deodorants range Bionsen, which contains Japanese spa minerals. It is making inroads into the c-store sector through Nisa-Today's.

Bionsen brand manager Lisa Cattell says: "The Japanese spa mineral positioning likens the products to that of a beauty brand and retailers could benefit from incremental sales through clever merchandising, positioning Bionsen alongside other key beauty brand leaders."

The big players are also aiming to maintain interest in the deodorant sector. Unilever has launched Maximum Protection Tri-Solid cream for its Sure Women and Dove brands, targeting the one-fifth of the population who consider themselves heavy sweaters and who apply antiperspirant several times a day. It has also launched a deodorant that it claims is the first to reduce underarm hair growth.

The Sure and Dove Hair Minimising deodorants will be available in both aerosol and roll-on formats and Unilever predicts they will be so popular with women that they will generate £10m worth of sales in the first year.

The range arrives on shelf this month and Unilever expects sales of the standard Dove and Sure deodorants to drop by about one-third as the target audience of young females tries the new variants.

The big brands also lead the

way in the women's shaving sector, and manufacturers have worked hard to differentiate men and women's products; sales in the disposable razor category

are increasing, with three-blade disposables outperforming the market, according to Nielsen.

Gillette set out to reinvigorate the female grooming category by extending the distribution and support for its Venus Breeze brand - a razor with shave gel bars. Wilkinson Sword fought back by launching an addition to the 3-in-1 Intuition Plus range - Intuition Plus Natural Care with Milk & Honey - claiming to be the world's first razor to lather, shave and moisturise. Wilkinson Sword's Quattro for Women is already one of the category's biggest sellers.

Skincare has seen the most recent innovation, though, with Unilever adding a lightly fragranced Vaseline Intensive Rescue 200ml Moisture Locking lotion to the Vaseline Intensive Rescue range. Meanwhile, its Dove brand extended its popular Dove Go Fresh cleansing range with Dove Go Fresh Burst Body Wash, an ultra-light gel formula with the scents of nectarine and white ginger.

"Consumers with dry skin have a higher consumption rate than an average body lotion user and are prepared to trade up to a product that will work," says Vaseline brand manager Monique Rossi.

Unilever's McCleave adds: "Rather than just stocking tertiary brands from the cash and carry, retailers should remember that customers are going in for convenience and want the reassurance of having brands they know and trust."