Finding a Way For HBA

From top-selling lines like cold remedies, toothpaste and cosmetics to a wide variety of lower-volume SKUs, health and beauty aids (HBA) as a c-store category will remain strong—and sensitive to package size, type of store location and local demographics.

Some segments within the HBA category continue to do well in c-stores. For example, convenience store sales of internal analgesic tablets—medicines used to relieve pain—increased 2.76% to $382 million during the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2017, according to IRI scan data. Comparably, cold/allergy/sinus tablets/packets accounted for nearly $150 million in the c-store channel during the same period, an 8.63% hike over the previous year.

“With HBC, smaller pack sizes are definitely a plus, with some emphasis on organic grooming items and the hand-sanitizer area,” said Mary Sonatore, retail buyer and merchandiser for Northwest Petroleum in Houston, Texas, a branded fuel retailer and an official fuel partner of Shell and Phillips 66 with 35 locations, including 18 Q Mart convenience stores. “Trends that I have seen are in travel-size grooming items and single-dose OTC (over-the-counter) items. I expect to see the same trends in 2018.”

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“The first thing we need to know is: How is the customer shopping the store?” said Steve Montgomery, president of b2b Solutions LLC, in Lake Forest, Ill. “That means, is their store a highway location? A neighborhood location? A combination thereof? Because that will drive what the consumer may be looking for to make that quick purchase in HBA.”

Category management will continue to be another key HBA profit measure.

“Most retailers are very good at adding products, but not very good at eliminating them. And so my advice would be to go through your sales history and determine what is selling and what isn’t selling,” said Montgomery.

Sometimes, raising your HBA profile is just attitude.

“How you think about a category defines the limits of how far you can grow it,” said Ryan Mathews, the founder and principal of Black Monk Consulting in Eastpointe, Mich. “Most convenience stores limit their ability to grow the health & beauty aids category by thinking about it as a section consumers only use on a ‘fill-in’ or ‘emergency’ basis. In other words, most c-store operators assume that consumers would prefer to make HBA purchases somewhere— maybe anywhere else—besides their stores.”

Retailers can stock things parents need, from individual packs of Kleenex and smaller, portable hand sanitizers to limited cosmetic lines popular with students. A store near a construction zone might beacon a display of first-aid and skin-care items.

“But that is precisely why you have to practice smart merchandising and make the space you have effectively work for you,” said Mathews.