Intelligent use of a limited space is the key to choosing which toiletries and personal care items to stock

It might not be the most exciting section of your store, but it’s impossible to imagine any convenience outlet managing without it. Toiletries and personal care items are an essential part of the convenience mix and with good reason - this is one of the few areas where even regular customers will never forgive you if you are out of stock in their time of need.
But as Nisaway category controller Nigel Ashton points out, it’s a frustrating category for the smaller retailer. “It’s a huge market, bigger than soft drinks or confectionery, and offers good margins,” he says, “but traditionally the supermarkets get the lion’s share. This used to be because consumers picked up their toiletries during a large weekly shop, but we are now seeing an evolving trend of two or three shopping trips a week, driven by the rise of fresh food, and so shoppers have the opportunity to top up their bathroom items more frequently.”
Where the multiples still hold the advantage is that they can afford to give sufficient shelf space to a product group which has diverged into myriad sub-categories and endless variants designed to suit every type of skin, hair colour or personal preference. A report from Verdict Research revealed that this year for the first time, four out of the top five health and beauty retailers are grocers and supermarkets now command 44.9% of the £14.9bn health and beauty market.
The smaller retailer’s dilemma is how to best use the limited shelf space they reserve for the category, given the number of variants within almost every product line. Ashton lists deodorant, skin care, hair care, washing and bathing, oral, men’s and femcare as the must-have sub-categories, and names Tampax, Sure and Lynx deodorants, Radox shower gel, Colgate toothpaste, Carex handwash and Steradent among the essential lines.
“TV advertising is very influential in this particular category, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s currently being promoted,” he says.
The past few years have seen men starting to take more interest in their appearance, and taking control of the bathroom purchases they might once have left to their partner or mother. “Men are starting to think of toiletries such as face washes as aspirational and the category is blossoming with 8% growth in 2006,” says Ashton. “They are even contemplating separate products for work and weekend use - men’s fragrances and shower products are showing good growth.”
It’s worth paying attention to your shelf plan, however - men can be reluctant to browse if their products are adjacent to the femcare items. As Ashton puts it: “You can’t put Gillette next to Tampax.”
Kate Freedman, Unilever customer marketing manager for convenience, agrees that separating men and women’s products within the fixture is a challenge, and says the company can offer advice to retailers on how to keep a flow of products across the smaller shelf space. “With a limited space you will need to stick to the best-sellers, those that are being advertised, and family-value SKUs,” she says.
“Consumers are usually loyal to a particular variant of a chosen brand, but there are always occasions when they’ll need a product in a hurry, for example, if they are out of deodorant, or have forgotten their shampoo on a trip away.”
Convenience stores won’t have the range to influence consumers to change their regime, so family-value lines across deodorants, hair care, shower products and soap, in small unit sizes, fit the distress purchase bill. “Traditional products such as Timotei are strong in convenience, particularly if they are pricemarked at about £1,” says Freedman.
“You get a lot of single men and older people in the convenience store, so it’s not a case of mothers doing all the shopping as it is in larger stores.”
Freedman recommends using signpost brands such as Lynx to draw customers to the fixture.
One area men do understand is male grooming, with the blades and razors category valued at £228m (IRI) and growing year on year. This growth is predominantly driven by system razors and blades. Market leader Gillette’s 75.9% market share is due in part to the successful introduction last year of Gillette Fusion, which is said to have grown category value by 17% (IRI all outlets week ending November 11, 2006) within six months of launch. Wilkinson Sword’s Quattro Titanium Energy male shaving system performed strongly, too.
Gillette also dominates the female blades and razors category, with a market share of 62.9%, with Wilkinson Sword at 25.5%, Bic at 7.2% and own label accounting for the remaining 6.8%. According to Gillette, 75% of women in the UK wet shave and 59% of these prefer a disposable.
The male shave preparations market is also showing consistent growth and currently worth £68.2m, with new entrant Bic introducing gels and foams.