GROCERS LOCK AWAY WHITESTRIPS TO DETER THIEVES IN SEARCH OF BETTER SMILES

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Retailers have discovered that the high price tag on Procter & Gamble's Crest Whitestrips is like a double-edged sword: While the teeth-whitening strips give retailers the opportunity to display a high-priced, new oral care product, the price tag also gives them reason to worry about shrink.Steve Barbieri, health and beauty care manager at a Price Chopper store here, said, "We go

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Retailers have discovered that the high price tag on Procter & Gamble's Crest Whitestrips is like a double-edged sword: While the teeth-whitening strips give retailers the opportunity to display a high-priced, new oral care product, the price tag also gives them reason to worry about shrink.

Steve Barbieri, health and beauty care manager at a Price Chopper store here, said, "We go through a reasonable amount of them each week, but anything with a high-ticket price has a reselling street value." Crest Whitestrips, which are kits comprised of hydrogen peroxide-coated plastic strips priced in the $40 range, are displayed in the pharmacy area at Price Chopper. Only six boxes are displayed at one time to keep the shrink rate low, according to Barbieri.

Since Cincinnati-based P&G launched the oral care product in May, Crest Whitestrips have generated $34.5 million in sales, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. The manufacturer expects to tally more than $200 million in sales in the product's first year on the market, according to published reports.

An assistant general merchandise manager who wished to remain unidentified at a Hy-Vee store, West Des Moines, Iowa, said the store keeps the products locked in a case located near the pharmacy, along with other pilferage-prone HBC products like Nicorette gum.

"They sell pretty well," the source said. "I'm surprised they do that well." She had expected the high price point to hinder sales, she said.

The store planned to roll out a comparable Rembrandt teeth-whitening kit, manufactured by Den-Mat, Santa Maria, Calif., at a lower $15 price point the following day in the toothpaste aisle.

Barbieri said the high-end price tag for Whitestrips was "a lot to shell out for whiter teeth." But, he pointed out, "People want to reach for perfection."

Alison Chaltas, executive consultant, Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., said that while she was not aware of any theft problems specifically posed by the tooth whitening kits, she added, "I'm not surprised. There's a theft issue in any high ring product, especially when it's in a box [consumers] can open."

She pointed out that such shrink concerns are prevalent with other high-end healthcare products like smoking cessation products.

"When you get to a $20 price tag, you're susceptible to theft," she said.