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As the NHS prepares for the worst flu season in its history, offering a broad range of medicines is not just good business sense, it’s an important local service, writes Chris Dillon.
Why stock winter remedies?
As Australia and New Zealand emerged from a winter with heavy flu rates, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens warned last month that the UK could be heading the same way.
The pressures and challenges facing the NHS is well-documented, so experts are predicting consumers will again seek to treat colds and flus at home and they will need their local store to make this as painless as possible.
Jon Atkins, GSK customer business manager, says: “Consumers are looking to access a range of medicines from their local store to treat minor illnesses and ailments, so while not a traditionally high-value category for retailers, it is one they increasingly need to get right.”
Demand for these products will increase steadily from this month, so now is the time to get your range right. Andrew Freestone, SHS sales & marketing commercial director, says: “There are fluctuations in demand across the year and October onwards sees the strongest sales on cold and flu and gastro treatments.”
Shoppers now expect their local store to be able to cater for all their needs. Medicines are either an impulse or distress purchase – either shoppers need it right away or they remember they need it when they see it.
Dan Newell, Wrigley confections marketing manager, says: “Over-the-counter medicine is increasingly important for retailers to stock during colder months as consumers become more reliant on stores that can cater to all of their top-up shop needs.”
What should you stock?
You should make sure your range contains products that cater to all kinds of common symptoms.
GSK’s Jon Atkins says: “Pain and coughs & colds are among the most frequently suffered ailments and are also the most treatable through self-medication. Therefore, these categories are the most important for retailers to focus on.”
Brands play an important role, particularly those that are backed by major marketing campaigns this winter, as these promote their effectiveness and how quickly they work.
SHS’ Andrew Freestone says: “The immediacy of relief that consumers can find from picking up a pack of paracetamol or a cough medicine from their local store is driving significant growth in categories such as cold and flu and child pain relief.”
This is why brands like Fisherman’s Friends are ripe for convenience, with 43% of its sales coming from shops like yours.
Martin Stimson, Fisherman’s Friend area business manager, says: “The brand continues to tap into demand for a cost-effective option for shoppers looking for lozenges during the colder months.”
Retailers will be able to purchase two boxes of Original Extra Strong and one box of Aniseed for the price of two until November from cash & carries.
How should you merchandise the fixture?
The first thing to consider when you are merchandising your medicines fixture is whether it is out on the shop floor or behind the counter.
This is a decision that will be based on the levels of shop theft you face, but sales do increase if shoppers can reach the products.
SHS’s Andrew Freestone says customers want to browse what is available in the product range and read the product labels without the awkwardness of asking shop staff to pass them an item from behind the counter.
“In visiting a convenience store to purchase over-the-counter products, shoppers are not looking for the same sort of healthcare advice they would seek in a pharmacy,” he explains.
Regardless of where your fixture is, the most important thing is that the fixture is easy to shop. GSK’s Jon Atkins adds: “Products should be grouped into sub-sectors so that all the remedies for a range of symptoms are in one place for shoppers to browse.”
Six key areas to cover
Adult and child pain relief
Cough & cold
Digestion and gastro
Stock a broad range of cough medicines and remedies to cater for different kinds of coughs.
Offer an own-label option as well as well-known brands to appeal to all shoppers.
Children’s medicines are often a distress purchase, so make sure you stock thermometers, Calpol and Calprofen.
“We used to keep our medicine behind the counter because we had a tobacco gantry that had a medicines unit as part of it. It also acted as a security measure.
“When we removed our gantry, we decided to move our medicines on to the shop floor and saw a 30% uplift within two weeks.
“Medicines tend to be an impulse purchase, it’s something that you only think about when you see it. This is the way it’s merchandised in supermarkets and it’s worked for us.”
Linda Williams, Broadway Convenience Store (Premier), Oxgangs, Edinburgh
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