NEW YORK -- Retailers can create incremental sales for over-the-counter whole health products by taking steps that capitalize on the growing trend of consumer self-care, according to a study that will be distributed during the General Merchandise Distributors Council's Health and Beauty Care Conference next week.
The General Merchandise Distributors Council Educational Foundation here, the educational arm of the GMDC, Colorado Springs, Colo., released results of a yearlong study that provides retailers with "actionable" ways to successfully launch over-the-counter and Rx-to-OTC switch products within a whole-health merchandising environment. The study, "Introducing and Merchandising New OTC Whole Health Products," includes marketing and merchandising tactics that specific retailers like Jewel-Osco have successfully implemented into its supermarkets.
"GMDC wanted to help retailers develop and sustain sales of new products and place OTC products within the context of whole health," said Roy White, vice president, education.
The 26-page guide includes four business-building strategies to capitalize on the growing consumer reliance of self-health care and the preliminarily approved Rx-to-OTC switches of popular drugs like Prilosec, which suppresses gastric acid secretion. The retailer-focused tactics include:
Offering personal counseling services and product recommendations to consumers by pharmacists.
Carrying information and content services through in-store health reference centers and pharmacy shelf-talkers and counter toppers.
Providing low-risk introductory products through the use of free sampling and trial-size merchandising.
Introducing a permanent new product section as a way to create in-store excitement and alert consumers to the latest OTC offerings.
An example of a chain that boosted OTC sales using these strategies is Jewel-Osco, Melrose Park, Ill., a grocery and drug combo format under Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, which began to incorporate several key whole health principles in its stores in late 2000, according to a case study revealed in the booklet. The retailer highlighted its "Health and Nutrition" section of the store with special wood-grained shelving and signage to differentiate the department from other areas. Select stores cross merchandised OTC drugs throughout the store, such as placing cold and flu remedies in the paper tissue aisle. The retailer used perpendicular shelf signs, trial-size packaging and end-cap displays to showcase new and exciting OTCs, and it provided event-based educational whole health programs, like offering diabetic-friendly classes on how to live healthier.
However, most supermarkets lag behind mass merchants and drug stores in creating dynamic OTC whole health merchandising opportunities, said Bill Bishop, president, Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., the firm that researched, analyzed, prepared and wrote the study.
"There's a substantial opportunity gap, at least for supermarkets, in terms of serving this market," he said. "Other [mass merchants and drug chains] have been more aggressive in selling OTCs, and we found supermarkets were not addressing this section, not staying with the marketing tactics" from a previous Rx-to-OTC guide provided by the GMDC.
"This book provides a blueprint," he added.
The results were gathered after Willard Bishop Consulting conducted four focus groups and 600 in-person interviews with consumers across the country, in addition to interviewing industry and merchandising experts. This study, which tells retailers what consumers want, makes a big difference, Bishop noted.
"This study asks consumers what needs to be done to satisfy their needs and makes it easier to buy product," he said. "[Retailers] have to get in line with consumers to differentiate their efforts, and if they follow that trial it's going to be a win."
Sponsors of the study included Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati; Weider Publications, Woodland Hills, Calif., which printed the study; Del Pharmaceuticals, Uniondale, N.Y.; and the National Association for Retail Merchandising Services, Plover, Wis.