DRESSINGS IN STYLE

Supermarkets are applying some glitz to the serious matter of children's scrapes.Some retailers polled by SN have discovered that adhesive bandages, along with other first-aid products made especially for children, are keeping kids and their parents interested in an array of merchandise in the health and beauty care aisle.Children's adhesive bandages, made in bright fashion colors and designs and

Supermarkets are applying some glitz to the serious matter of children's scrapes.

Some retailers polled by SN have discovered that adhesive bandages, along with other first-aid products made especially for children, are keeping kids and their parents interested in an array of merchandise in the health and beauty care aisle.

Children's adhesive bandages, made in bright fashion colors and designs and featuring hot licensed characters, are the perfect complement for a variety of antiseptics, analgesics,

anti-itch sprays and hydrocortisone creams being packaged especially for children.

"Anything that kids can relate to, such as characters they see on television, will help boost sales," said Dale Green, director of health and beauty care/general merchandise at Houchens Industries, Bowling Green, Ky., an 84-store chain.

"Eye-appealing and licensed products seem to be doing well," said Nelson Ackerman, HBC advertising and marketing coordinator for 11 Jewel Osco Southwest stores, Albuquerque, N.M. Though Ackerman could not provide sales figures, he said licensed products are a draw for the category. "They are important because children have a direct say in the purchase," he said. Sales are augmented because children no longer wear adhesive bandages just when they have a cut or scrape. Indeed, licensed characters and fashionable products like Glitter strips from American White Cross have turned bandages into jewelry of sorts.

"It's almost fashion, depending on what kids are watching on TV or what's coming out on video," said a source with a major wholesaler, who did not want to be identified.

Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians and Aladdin from National Patent Medical, Dinosaurs, Casper and the Flintstones from Curad, the Sesame Street collection from Johnson & Johnson, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Kid Care and Disney's Lion King from Tsumura International are some entries on the shelves with $1.99 to $2.99 price points.

The retail price on children's first-aid products doesn't have to be kept as low as other products in the segment, according to the wholesaler.

"First-aid isn't necessarily a price-driven category," he added. "Your retail price doesn't need to be extremely low because, especially with bandages, the kids see it, they want it, and the parents will pay for it just to shut them up." According to Towne-Oller & Associates, New York, a subsidiary of Information Resources Inc., Chicago, annualized sales for children's adhesive bandages at food stores for the 12 months ended January 1995 were $15.6 million -- a flat volume compared with the year before.

During this same period, sales for all types of first-aid dressings, including children's and adults' adhesive bandages, tapes and gauzes, brought in $181 million, a 9% increase, according to Nielsen North America, Schaumburg, lll. Total antiseptic sales were $108.3 million, an 8% increase.

One explanation for the flatness in the children's segment might be that licensed products, particularly those tied to popular films, have a relatively short period in which the sales movement is the strongest before the public losses interest.

"It's street movement," explained John Raley, HBC buyer at Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif. "The licensed goods, especially the ones that are for whatever the hit movie of the month is, have a window where they have a lot of potential. But that window closes very rapidly."

Raley said he doesn't see much strength in children's first-aid goods. Those products are merchandised with the other first-aid products at the chain. About 10 to 15 of its first-aid stockkeeping units are devoted to strips featuring licensed characters or special colors and designs.

Though the adhesive-bandage selection does fairly well as a whole, strips with the licensed characters or colors haven't been a huge success, Raley added. Renee Howell, HBC buyer at the 10-store chain, Super A. Foods, Paramount, Calif., also reported little success with children's first-aid products due to price point resistance in the market.

She tried to build up her first-aid category by bringing in Johnson & Johnson's No More Itchies and No More Ouchies, first-aid spray pumps, ranging from about $4 to $5, that are specifically geared toward children.

"I thought it was a good item because I have kids and I know how hard it is to get them to put anything on a bump or scrape," Howell said.

But she said the products' $4 to $5 price tags didn't fare well with customers. As a result, her chain pulled both items about six months ago. Howell said that while the products may have done well in a location with a different type of economy, they were too expensive for her customers.

"Children's first-aid products are important if your customers have the money to buy products for kids and for adults. But if you're in a low-income area, it's more difficult," she said. "My customers are lucky enough to buy one box of bandages, much less one for adults and one for kids."

According to Howell, children's first-aid products at Super A. Foods comprise about 4% of the first-aid category, down from about 8% a year ago.

Big Y Foods, Springfield, Mass., describes its 12-foot children's first-aid section, which contains about 13 SKUs, as a steady category. Jan Winn, director of HBC-GM, said it has a "seasonal upswing" that's been influenced by licensed goods.

Big Y's adhesive-bandage selection includes Johnson & Johnson's Sesame Street, Hot Colors and Glow in the Dark; Curad's Dinosaurs; Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians, and Kid Care's Power Rangers. "Licensed characters like the Power Rangers help sell these products," Winn said. Margins on children's bandages are slightly better than on regular bandages, she added.

"It has the potential to grow," said Ian Moore, pharmacy coordinator for Atlantic Wholesalers Ltd., a subsidiary of Loblaws Supermarkets Ltd., in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. "The clientele in our superstores is generally the female shopper with young children. So having products that appeal to that clientele can be successful."

Some retailers that have separate children's categories said they run the category with in-store promotions. Others, however, said they don't need promotions. Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday matinees are sometimes all that's needed to pique a child's interest in a product.

"In terms of growth, the product has done it all on its own," said David Lowe, HBC sales manager for Fleming Cos.' Johnson City division in Tennessee. "Television has helped a lot."