Health and Beauty Sales Get a Lift

HBC1HBC is making a comeback from coast to coast.

The category—from shampoos and skin creams to cough drops and cold remedies—has always had its rightful place in a convenience store—providing a grab-and-go remedy for a variety of ailments. Still, the category has been stigmatized at c-stores as an offering that commands a much higher price than the local drug store. But the times have changed. More and more retailers are taking the time to find single-serve and lower-cost solutions that are helping to improve sales.

Try New Things
The opportunity to add smaller packages of over-the-counter medications has allowed many stores to expand offerings in a minimal space.

“We’ve trended away from the larger, higher-retail packages and gone more toward the smaller, convenience-style packages,” said David Lau, merchandising manager for Thorntons Inc., headquartered in Louisville, Ky., which operates 160+ stores in five states.   “We’ve streamlined our offering and actually cut back on the amount of space allocated. We’ve gone to some lower-priced retail items, but we’ve increased the turns and kept our sales flat.”

But smaller-size products are not the answer for every store. At the Stop and Go Mini Mart in Bend, Ore., owner Kent Couch has returned to selling full-size bottles of tablets, such as Advil, after briefly offering the same products in single-dose packets at 99-cents each.

“We lost a lot of volume when we did that,” said Couch, whose health-and-beauty sales dropped 23% with the single-dose packets. “It was a surprise to us. So we’ve gone from selling a single allergy-relief pill for 99 cents and returned to the 16-count and 24-count bottles. When we went back to the bottles, we got our growth back pretty quick. And we’re making a lot more money on $5 bottles.”

Customer Convenience
7-Eleven discovered an innovative way to fulfill busy customers’ personal needs. In 2012, the chain added a new line of health-and-beauty products, all sized to satisfy travel requirements of the Transportation Security Administration. The brand-name items range from Scope and Colgate toothpastes to Dep hair styling gel, Coppertone sunscreen and Mennen Speed Stick deodorant. The mini-packages are priced at $1.99 each or two for $3 and have been particularly popular at stores in tourist areas.

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