In Case of Emergency, Use Store Brands

Bumps and bruises are an inevitable part of life from time to time. Fortunately, the first aid section is loaded with remedies and quick fixes to get us back on our feet and on with our day.

But a well-stocked first aid section offers little consolation when an emergency comes up at home or on the go. Being prepared requires some planning and forethought — and store brand first aid products are making the process easier for consumers.

According to “First Aid — US,” a December 2013 report from global market research firm Mintel, sales for the overall first aid products market are projected to increase by 12 percent between 2013 and 2018. Private label makes a strong showing now, but retailers will want to make sure they are making the most of all of the opportunities this category affords.

Expand usage

Beyond treating occasional minor wounds/injuries at home, first aid products overall remain limited in their usage. However, two particular areas — portable products and muscle/joint support devices — offer retailers an opportunity to change this reality and drive sales in the process.

The Mintel report states that only 18 percent of consumers have first aid products with them when they are out and about. The key to making products portable is taking a good look at product delivery systems. Take hands-free options, for example.

“Products that offer that delivery system are getting more attention now,” says Joe Peck, CEO of Portland, Ore.-based HealthRight Products, a manufacturer of ointment sticks that are hands-free and easily accessible, which makes them ideal for outdoor usage.

“We also target the singles market, which is another growing trend,” he continues. “These products do not have the excessive amounts of the [contents] that the other larger conventional items carry, like the 2-ounce or 3-ounce tube.” Their small sizes make them portable and geared for personalized usage.

Addressing the needs of older consumers is also critical to future growth. This group has a greater need for first aid products — especially muscle/joint support devices, explains Gabriela Elani, a Mintel analyst familiar with the category.

“Store brands have a much smaller presence in the muscle/joint support device segment,” she says, “which likely stems from consumers feeling that branded devices offer them better quality and support.”

But the growing population of older consumers will only increase demand for these products in the coming years, Elani adds.

“Store brands should focus their efforts on growing their sales in this segment,” she explains, “by either entering the segment or improving the quality of the current products they offer to better compete with the top brands.”

First line of defense

Adhesive bandages, cotton balls/swabs and antiseptic treatments are the cornerstones of the first aid aisle. They can be found in just about every medicine cabinet. But with the growth of home health care, the prevention of infection will become paramount.

“Shorter stays in the hospital after surgery and convalescing at home will increase the need to prevent infections and control bacteria,” says Hal Burke, vice president of retail sales for Mount Prospect, Ill.-based Xttrium Laboratories, “not only for the recovering patient — but also for home health care personnel caring for the sick family member.”

Antiseptic skin cleansers such as chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) 4 percent solution are both hospital grade and FDA-regulated and proven to prevent infections and control bacteria. CHG can be used as a wound cleanser and a hand sanitizer.

“I believe CHG 4 percent will become the first line of defense in preventing infections and controlling bacteria in the future,” Burke predicts, “especially with the FDA about to ban the active ingredient triclosan, which is found in most liquid hand soaps.”

But many retailers simply are not taking advantage of the opportunity to invest in a store brand antiseptic skin cleanser. Burke suggests that retailers display the product properly and promote it with their private label family of first aid products.

“I believe the in-store clinics also offer a very important opportunity to educate consumers [about] store brand first aid products that every medicine cabinet in the U.S. should stock in case of an emergency,” he adds.

Healthy promotion

With so many different merchandising and promotion opportunities, retailers are finding it easier than ever to reach out to their customers. In particular, shelf messaging and clip strips have proven successful, Peck says.

“And even with the improvement in the economy,” he adds, “value packs still seem to be where consumers are looking.”

Some retailers are advertising free first aid kit bags with a required minimum purchase of first aid products. Other retailers are looking for new opportunities to cross-merchandise.

“Cross-merchandising first aid products with a store brand antiseptic skin cleanser would increase unit dollar sales and offer an important product to the mix,” Burke says.

Other opportunities require some outside-of-the-box thinking.

“We have had a number of surprising successes merchandising cold packs and reusable cold packs within the freezer/ice cream sets in certain pharmacies and grocer planograms,” says Mark Finkelstein, national sales director for Markham, Ontario-based PharmaSystems Inc. “Again, this took some convincing. But in the form of a clip strip, this seemed to shine through with great success.”

And the role that product packaging plays cannot be overlooked.

“I think continuing to improve store brand packaging can help retailers better capture consumers’ attention in store aisles,” Elani offers.

But retailers should improve more than just packaging. The Mintel report states that many consumers view first aid products as a commodity category and are, therefore, shopping for products based on price alone. Be that as it may, retailers should always remain focused on continuous product quality improvement.

“Consumers already shop for first aid products based on price,” Elani says, “and further improvement around product quality could further solidify store brands’ prominence in the first aid category.”

For example, continuous improvements to adhesive bandages — improvements that speed up healing and offer better protection for wounds — are one significant area where retailers could innovate to offer a better product, Elani states.

Future protection

In the future, consumers will continue to rely on first aid products for life’s little emergencies. And private label will increasingly become the “go-to” source for relief.

“The most new product activity in the coming years will likely come from store brands,” Elani says. “Overall, I think retailers have a strong presence already in this market and they will continue to grow their influence.”

Retailers that stay on top of trends in consumer habits and lifestyles will find success in the future.

“In the future, most retailers should realize that the trends are with convenience products,” Peck says, “and with traditional conventional products that carry long shelf time at home.”

The ever-practical first aid kit is now being expanded to include products that have been merchandised and sold separately.

“I believe that all-in-one kits are here to stay and will simply expand on the number of SKUs and quantities per SKU that will be offered to the consumers,” Finkelstein explains.

Burke calls on retailers to consider replacing multiple facings of items that are declining in sales or market share with niche products such as CHG 4 percent solution.

“The window of opportunity is open for retailers of store brand first aid/wound care products to generate greater sales and profits,” he adds, “while providing a very important public service to their customers and community.”

Do consider bundling and selling store brand first aid products together as a first aid kit.

Don’t neglect the needs of older consumers, who are growing in number.

Do offer portable products and muscle/joint support devices under your own brand.

Don’t stop innovating in the store brand first aid category.