Incontinence, skin care: A match made in heaven

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

If synergy between compatible products is the key to retail success, then HME providers need to look hard at the incontinence-skin care tandem. The pairing has synergies galore, vendors say.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to carrying and bundling incontinence and skin care items is that they are primarily sold through over-the-counter cash channels directly to consumers. Another plus is their versatility-they can be sold to consumers with any number of conditions. Smart retailers will recognize these strong suits and position their products in a way that appeals to the broadest array of customers possible, says Avi Weiss, director of home healthcare for Springfield, Ill.-based HD Smith.
"Skin care, especially, transcends a number of categories-wound care, diabetes, ostomy, urologic, as well as the typical rashes and sunburns," he said. "It comprises a great number of products, including creams, gels, cleansers, barriers and absorbent dressings."
Cross-merchandising is another tactic that ensures products receive maximum exposure, Weiss said.
"There's no rule that says you should only put a particular type of product in one place," he said. "The object is to fill the bag. You already own that customer-if they're coming in for diabetic test strips, you should be selling them skin cream and foot cream. There is no reason why they should leave the store with only one item."
Weiss adds that free samples go a long way in establishing goodwill with customers.
"Sit down and listen to what the customer is telling you, and don't be afraid to open a package and let them try it," he said. "They will come back because they'll remember that you spent time with them; that you're more interested in helping them than just making a sale."
Product preferences
Incontinence product options have grown dramatically in recent years and providers should be familiar with all of them in order to determine the best product for each customer, said Rick Finlayson, vice president of marketing for Greenville, N.C.-based Attends Healthcare Products.
Attends has expanded its breadth of products to include four tiers of briefs, including two made of breathable non-woven fibers and two with poly-backed material; two tiers of protective underwear consisting of extra- and super-absorbency capabilities; four tiers of underpads, as well as bladder control pads and disposable washcloths.
The boomers who are now entering the age where bladder control is an issue are still very active and they want products that offer discretion, as well as protection, Finlayson said.
"Briefs seem to be the dominant product and pull-ons, specifically, are the product of choice," he said. "The simple fact is that in the retail marketplace, protective underwear represents about 45% of adult incontinence products. It fits like normal underwear, providing comfort and protection."
While most of the big box retailers carry incontinence supplies at a discounted price, independent HME providers can vigorously compete for business by carrying unique brands and by establishing themselves as incontinence support centers.
"This approach works well, especially in tandem with other sensitive conditions like ostomy and post-mastectomy," he said. "This distinguishes the HME provider in the retail setting."
Other potential combos
Market research from Irving, Texas-based Kimberly-Clark has uncovered other category match-ups HME providers may want to consider. For instance, the company has learned that more than half of adult care users also use baby wipes, which makes a certain amount of sense, said Joanna Klee, national merchandising manager of adult/fem care.
"They are gentle, hypo-allergenic, larger than flushable wipes, less medicinal and less expensive on a cost-per-wipe than anything currently in the adult care market," she said. "Many of the merchandising and store execution details we're running into are issues such as dual placement, shelf space and adult care users buying baby products, such as baby powder, cotton swabs and balls and even baby lotion to manage their delicate skin needs."
Feminine health and hygiene lines are also natural product extensions, she said.
"It is an ideal solution to incorporate female lubricants and some of the peri-menopausal medicines and lotions with wipes and skin care options," Klee said. "It bridges the merchandising section between adult care and fem care, combining it into a women's health aisle. It limits searching the store through multiple aisles, provides solution sets within the aisle they are already shopping. It is more profitable for the retailer as skin care and medicines already provide a much higher margin than adult care and fem care absorbent products."
Klee also advises that retailers use appropriate signage to help guide shoppers through the different sections. HME