Category guide: Winter remedies

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Catch a share of cold and flu profits with over‑the‑counter remedies. Rachel Lawler reports.

Imagine a range of products worth £452.4m and growing at a rate of 6.7% annually – you’d think all retailers would be keen to stock them. But more than a third of independent retailers are completely missing out – and therefore so are wholesalers.

Sales of medicines are in double-digit growth in small stores, but more than 10,000 impulse shops do not stock them at all. As the cold and flu season approaches, wholesalers can grab a share of this growing market by offering their customers quality winter remedies at value prices.

Andrew Freestone, commercial director at Sudafed distributor SHS Sales & Marketing, says c-stores are in pole position to take advantage of the boom in winter remedies.

“At times, when customers are feeling the onset of a cold, they will be on a shopping mission to find the brands that they know and trust to quickly and effectively treat their symptoms with the convenience of locating them as quickly as possible,” he says.

Susan Nash, trade communications manager at Mondelēz International, says: “Medicated is a high impulse category and therefore wholesalers should advise retailers to merchandise these products in a prime position to maximise exposure and sales.”

To help retailers boost sales, Mondelēz has recently introduced the ‘Fresh Stop’ unit. This holds the firm’s mints, gum and medicated confectionery lines, and is designed to fit small counters with an eye-catching design to attract impulsive shoppers.

Also new this cold season, throat-soothing sweets brand Halls is teaming up with EA Games for a new on-pack promotion. The promotion gives consumers the chance to win a Samsung Galaxy S5 16GB smartphone or one of one million free Android downloads, worth £5.

The brand will also be promoted through a £1.2m marketing investment, including TV, video on demand, outdoor, social media and PR activity, helping wholesalers drive further sales.

“This is part of our ongoing drive to keep Halls relevant all year round, which is great news for the brand, the remedies category and wholesalers – there is huge potential for sales growth as consumers see the benefits of Halls outside the traditional cough and flu season. We’d advise wholesalers to ensure they have stocked up in advance of the promotion to help drive impulse purchases and make the most of the opportunity,” she adds.

Martin Stimson, area business manager for the UK at Fisherman’s Friend, says: “Sales of medicated confectionery typically mirror the numbers of coughs and colds doing the rounds. But Fisherman’s Friend is bucking the trend and continuing to grow regardless of whether consumers are feeling under the weather.”

Fisherman’s Friend also saw sales of its Blackcurrant variant soar, with the flavour emerging as a star performer in impulse outlets, recording a 26% increase in value sales.

Stimson adds: “With research showing that flavour is a key purchase driver for our consumers, it’s no surprise to see fruity variants enjoying such success. This is no doubt a combined upshot of existing fans branching out beyond traditional flavours and new customers using the fruity variants as an entry point to our new seven-strong range.” 

The trend for flavours is well known to retailers and wholesalers alike, but equally important is the growing consumer focus on health – and in recent months, a growing backlash against sugar. In response, Reckitt Benckiser is expanding its Lemsip range with the addition of Lemsip Mucus Cough Sugar & Colour Free and Lemsip Cough Max for Chesty Cough. Unlike traditional cough liquids, the range is not packaged in glass bottles, making them more portable and convenient – ideal for stocking in c-stores.

The launch will be supported by a promotional campaign starting in November, aiming to encourage new users and non-treaters to try a cough and cold remedy this winter. The new products will tap into the growing trend for low sugar and meet the needs of customers previously put off by the sugar content in many winter remedies.

Jérome Lemaire, marketing director at RB, says: “We know that only 48% of people treat their cough symptoms, which is why in 2014 we are extending the range further to meet new consumer needs. This provides retailers with a great opportunity to help more customers, increase sales and maximise profit this winter.”

With retailers looking to capitalise on this key sales opportunity, wholesalers would be wise to stock up ready for the coming demand of the winter months. And possibly think about increasing this section year round.

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