In 2020, the health and beauty aid (HBA) category struggled overall, but sales of hand sanitizers and masks helped compensate for category losses.
In a year when people worked and attended school at home, and when social gatherings were discouraged, in-store sales of certain HBAs slacked off substantially, especially cosmetics. There simply weren’t as many reasons to pop into convenience stores for that last-minute lip gloss or mascara replacement, and the data reflects this.
According to IRI market research, cosmetics dollar sales dropped for eye, facial and lip products in calendar year ending Dec. 27, 2020 — 85.6%, 80.1% and 68.1%, respectively. Unit sales experienced disappointing decreases of 85.1% for eye makeup, 80.7% for facial products and 77.0% for lips.
On the health side of the category, some of the more reliable segments also experienced declining sales within some product families. For example, IRI reported negative year-over-year dollar and unit sales for cold/allergy/sinus liquids and tablets. Vitamins, however, experienced a gain of 2.4%, thanks in part to a growing popularity of Remedy Organics and Kryptic Kratom brands of liquid vitamins/minerals, which both posted impressive dollar sales gains.
Personal Care Products Soar
The biggest lift for the HBA category, however, came from personal hygiene and protective gear items. Although c-stores offered hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes before 2020, they commanded a small portion of HBA planograms until COVID-19 hit.
“Products geared toward personal care, health, safety and sanitation saw the greatest growth. The sales velocity increased significantly as other outlets shut down, and as community-focused local retailers, the convenience channel benefitted greatly,” said Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer at Yesway. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company operates Yesway and Allsup’s stores throughout the Midwest and South.
Indeed, this segment assumed a much larger and more prominent presence in stores. Per Nielsen research, c-stores added more than 100 SKUs of hand sanitizers last year that weren’t around in 2019. It also reports that, by September, hand sanitizers had cashed in nearly $3 million more than all of 2019 transactions, an increase of 485%.
C-stores also added face coverings due to COVID-19, which helped cushion in-store sales. According to Nielsen, masks earned $7.7 million by September. And as the pandemic enters its second year, this HBA segment stands to take up long-term residence on shelves.
“I believe COVID-19 will indeed change the category for the next few years. Everyone’s shopping pattern have changed due to COVID,” said Rick Staley, merchandising manager for Tri Star Energy LLC, which owns and operates Twice Daily, Hightail and Sudden Service Convenience Stores. “We will continue to carry masks and larger inventories of hand sanitizers. People will still need to protect themselves.”