Spotlight on feminine hygiene products

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Spotlight on feminine hygiene products

By Kathie Canning, Store Brands - 07/05/2016

In many stores, the feminine hygiene product section brings with it a sea of choices in terms of brands, product formats and more. To attract attention to store brand feminine hygiene items, retailers would be wise to give them their due in terms of strong merchandising and packaging design.

To see what retailers are doing well and not so well here, we visited three stores: a Walgreens store in Libertyville, Ill., operated by Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens Boots Alliance; a CVS/pharmacy store in Mundelein, Ill., operated by Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health; and a Dollar General store in Mundelein, Ill., operated by Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General Corp. Our visits took place in mid-May. It’s worth noting that none of the stores had any displays featuring feminine hygiene products at the time of our visits.

Walgreens

General observations: The feminine hygiene product section in the Walgreens store is in a short back aisle located to the left of the center of the store (looking into the store from the front entrance). The section, which takes up a good portion of one side of the short aisle, merchandises sanitary napkins, tampons, pantiliners, feminine washes and wipes, yeast infection treatments and more.

Foot traffic was moderate during our early-evening visit. The store was neat and clean, and the shelves in the feminine hygiene section were fairly neat. We did notice that a few products were out of stock.

All of Walgreens’ own-brand feminine hygiene items are offered under the Well at Walgreens brand. National brands offered include Always, Stayfree, U by Kotex, Carefree, Playtex, Tampax (and various sub-brands), o.b. and more.

The upside:

  • The color of the Well at Walgreens product packaging varies according to the brand the product is emulating — without too closely mimicking that brand in overall appearance.
  • Each own-brand sanitary napkin and tampon item carries a “compare to” statement, making it easier for shoppers to make the switch from the national brand.
  • Aisle signage clearly points out that feminine hygiene products are located in the aisle.

The downside:

  • Placement of the retailer’s private brand items varied — sometimes a SKU was to the right of the national brand equivalent, and other times it was to the left.
  • The store was offering Balance Rewards points on the purchase of certain Always, Tampax Pearl, Tampax Radiant and Vagisil items. But the Well at Walgreens equivalents did not offer points.
  • We spotted no signage or tags calling out the advantages/value of the private brand feminine hygiene items.

CVS/pharmacy

General observations: At the CVS/pharmacy store, the feminine hygiene section is located on the left-hand side of the store (looking into the store from the front entrance), against the back wall. Of the three stores we visited, this one had the largest selection of feminine hygiene products in terms of facings, merchandising sanitary napkins, tampons, pantiliners, feminine washes and wipes, yeast infection treatments and more.

Foot traffic was light during our early morning visit. The store was neat and clean, and shelves in the feminine hygiene product section were fairly neat. We did notice that quite a few products were out of stock; however, shelf tags touting clearance items were in front of some of the empty spaces. All of CVS/pharmacy’s private brand feminine hygiene items are offered under the CVS/pharmacy brand. National brands offered include Always, Stayfree, U by Kotex, Carefree, Playtex, Tampax (and various sub-brands), o.b., Softcup and more.

The upside:

  • All of the CVS/pharmacy brand sanitary napkins and tampons bear a “compare to” statement, making it easy for shoppers to switch from the national brand.
  • Almost all of the store brand products are situated to the right of their national brand equivalents, boosting consistency and shoppability. (The smaller packages of CVS/ pharmacy panty-liners are presented in brand block fashion on the bottom shelf.)
  • Large yellow shelf tags showcased both store brand and national brand promotions.
  • In some cases, a national brand item was on promotion while the store brand equivalent was not (e.g., an 18-count box of U by Kotex tampons, priced at $6.29, were part of a “buy one get the second one for 50 percent off” promotion). But in every case we checked, the shopper would still save money buying two store brand products than she would buying two national brand products touting that promotion.
  • The packaging color and appearance varies according to the product the CVS/pharmacy brand is emulating. Quite a few of the packaging designs were very attractive — featuring flower illustrations, for example, on the front.

The downside:

  • The retailer was running at least three different types of promotions across a large number of both store brand and national brand SKUs. As a result, the large yellow tags (and white tags for clearance) competed with each other for shoppers’ attention.
  • One CVS/pharmacy package — the equivalent to Always 40-count Ultra Thin Super pads — was the exact color as the Always package and looked so similar that at a quick glance, it would be easy to mistake one for another. However, it looked so different from the other CVS/pharmacy feminine hygiene packaging that we figured it was an older design/newer packaging hadn’t hit the shelf for that product yet.

Dollar General

General observations: The feminine hygiene product section is located on the right-hand side of the store (looking into the store from the front entrance), against the wall toward the front of the store. Of the three stores we visited, this one has the smallest selection of feminine hygiene products. But it still covers most of the product subcategories found in the other two stores.

Private brands offered in the section include DG Health and DG Body. Dollar General also offers yeast infection treatments, anti-itch cream and douche under its exclusive Rexall brand. The national brands we spotted include Always, Carefree, Stayfree, Tampax Pearl, Playtex, U by Kotex and a few others.

In general, the own-brand products are merchandised to the right of their national brand equivalents, but we did spot a few exceptions.

Foot traffic was light during our early morning visit. The store was neat and clean, and shelves in the feminine hygiene product section were well-stocked. In comparison to the other two stores, Dollar General also offers a higher percentage of own-brand items in relation to total feminine hygiene items offered.

The upside:

  • Like for the Walgreens and CVS/pharmacy own-brand products, Dollar General’s own-brand packaging varied by the national brand being emulated, without looking too much like the national brand.
  • Each own-brand sanitary napkin and tampon item carries a “compare to” statement, making it easier for shoppers to make the switch from the national brand.
  • The store gives the brand-blocking treatment to various SKUs of DG Health Maxi sanitary napkins that are comparable to Always Maxi sanitary napkins.
  • The store placed a large shelf tag that said “New Item!” under its DG Body Feminine Wash.

The downside:

  • A large cardboard shipper display filled with plates and napkins for 2016 graduation parties blocked part of the feminine hygiene section.

Get their attention

Retailers could find that even small improvements to merchandising efforts go a long way to attract shoppers to private brand feminine hygiene products. For example, they could dedicate an end cap to their best-selling private label tampons, pads and liners.

Such a display “eliminates the ‘confusion’ of the feminine hygiene aisle,” notes Beth Richman, vice president of sales for Albaad USA, Reidsville, N.C. “Simplicity is the key [to] making her shopping experience much more delightful/pleasant.”

The right packaging, too, can grab shoppers’ attention. Brighter, bolder packaging with vibrant graphics would create a much more noticeable shelf presence. Richman notes that packaging speaks to the consumer at the point of purchase, and with the stigma around private brands no longer an issue, retailers need to stand out among the brands.

“Think outside the box for this category,” she advises. It’s a “fun, exciting time to be able to be much more creative.”

But eye-catching merchandising and great packaging will backfire if the product is not up to par, a spokesperson from Brentwood, N.Y.-based U.S. Nonwovens Corp. suggests.

“Retailers have been cautious to accept innovations in this space even though brands have been innovating,” the spokesperson says. “I’d start looking into core product improvement over packaging.”