REPORT CITES OPPORTUNITY IN 'WOMEN'S WELL-BEING'

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Grocers embracing the concept of whole health can further capitalize by positioning their stores as "women's well-being" destinations, according to a new report to be presented here this week.The General Merchandise Distributor's Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., is presenting the report, "Women's Well-Being Merchandising Strategies," at its annual health and beauty care conference

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Grocers embracing the concept of whole health can further capitalize by positioning their stores as "women's well-being" destinations, according to a new report to be presented here this week.

The General Merchandise Distributor's Council, Colorado Springs, Colo., is presenting the report, "Women's Well-Being Merchandising Strategies," at its annual health and beauty care conference at the Marriott's Desert Springs Resort Sept. 7 to 11.

Jim Wisner, president, MarketHealth, Libertyville, Ill., which conducted the study for GMDC, described the concept of women's well-being as "probably the biggest opportunity we've seen come along in 20 years." He said supermarkets need to change their traditional ways of thinking to capitalize on the concept.

"There is a far more holistic approach to health that women have than I think most men fully appreciate," he said.

The study, which draws on feedback obtained from focus groups, a national survey of 624 women, an advisory panel of retailers and suppliers and data from government agencies, suggests that there are several keys to successfully appealing to the well-being needs of women.

First, the store must have a "female-friendly environment," which includes such elements as the proper ambience, fixturing, lighting and product adjacencies that are appropriate for each circumstance. Women in the study agreed that most supermarkets lacked a "warm feeling," especially in the bath and body departments, but they also cautioned against creating an ambience that was too elegant, which would suggest higher prices.

Second, the busy nature of women's lives today creates a need for one-stop shopping, with a wider array of services. Women need to do more in less time that they spend shopping in the store. The study suggests such features as drive-through pharmacies and remote checkouts for small HBC purchases could speed the shopping experience for women.

Women also said they want retailers to provide more information about health, nutrition and women's issues. Only 18% of the women surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that information on women's well-being is readily available in their stores. Nearly one-third said they could be motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle if their store provided more information on health and well-being.

"The majority of shoppers said their store does not provide information, and how hard is that to fix, really?" said Wisner.

Women's interest in health is often triggered by life-stage events, such as giving birth, menopause or a chronic health condition. These events trigger needs not just in the vitamins and supplements department, but throughout the store, the study concluded. Women over 40 also expressed more interest in certain health screenings, including tests of bone density, cholesterol level and blood pressure.

Finally, women appreciate "stolen moments," which they describe as time for themselves when they can engage in personal relaxation. Products such as candles, flowers, magazines, wine and bath care items all provide an opportunity for women to reward themselves while shopping in the stores.

"Women are more active in the business world than ever, and along with that goes the stress," said Bob Kowalski, vice president of marketing, Kowalski Cos., Woodbury, Minn. "They are balancing work and family and deeming health as a huge issue."

One of the key conclusions of the report was that supermarkets have to work on improving the pricing and selection in their beauty care assortments if they want to capture a greater share of the market for those products.

The report found that the vast majority -- 82% -- of women said they would not buy beauty care products at their local supermarket if the prices were even slightly higher than those at other stores.

"Shoppers talk about making their monthly trips to Kmart, Target or Wal-Mart, wherever it is, and doing their HBC stock-up, because 'don't you know, the prices are better there,' or 'don't you know, they carry a lot more stuff,"' said Wisner. "The interesting thing is that those consumers say they would far rather purchase those products in the supermarket so they don't have to make the extra trip."

More than three-fourths -- 77% -- of the women surveyed said they would purchase HBC products in supermarkets if the price was the same as other sources.

Kowalski said he thinks many supermarkets, his included, have begun to embrace the concept of making the supermarket a destination for women's well-being, and have also addressed the HBC pricing issue.

"I think that we're a little bit ahead of the curve, but I think everyone else is going the same way," he said. "I would say that you can be competitive -- you've just got to buy right."

Other retailers that participated in the study included Balls Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan.; Wild Oats, Boulder, Colo.; Nature's Northwest, Lake Oswego, Ore.; Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., and Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass.

The lead sponsors were Procter & Gamble, Gillette Co., Johnson & Johnson and Weider Publications. Schering-Plough and Del Pharmaceuticals were benefactor sponsors.