The British public has coughed up a total of £265 million for cold and flu remedies in the last year, but only £76m was spent in pharmacies – an 8 per cent fall from the previous year (Kantar Worldpanel value sales, 52 weeks to August 8, 2010).
Last autumn saw a flurry of excitement in the cold and flu remedy market, as it was predicted a winter swine flu epidemic would boost already-buoyant sales after a slight uplift in cold and flu remedy sales during the summer of 2009.
But when the anticipated increase in swine flu cases failed to materialise, the summer sales spike meant that consumers had already stocked up their medicine cabinets and did not need to buy extra supplies during the winter.
Despite the swine flu scare, 2009-10 actually saw a lower than average incidence of colds and flu. Combined with the growth of cheaper own label products and a heightened level of promotional activity, this resulted in less money being spent on cold and flu remedies.
The unseasonable sales uplift during last year’s summer was followed by a three-year low in sales, with multi-symptoms products bearing the brunt of this downturn (Nielsen value sales 21 weeks to January 23, 2010).
The market returned to value and unit growth during the first half of 2010, although the pharmacy channel still lagged behind in some sectors, including multi-symptom and cough products. Pharmacy sales were stronger in the decongestant sector (Nielsen, 26 weeks to July 10, 2010).
Decongestant sales up
Jane Westgarth, senior retail analyst at Mintel, says: “The market for decongestants has been stimulated by the growing trend for consumers to use this medication to relieve the symptoms of hayfever and allergies.
“This in turn has helped to spread more of the sales throughout the year, with less of an emphasis on winter seasonal sales.”
Mintel research shows that Boots was the single largest retailer of cough, cold and flu remedies in 2009 with an estimated 22 per cent share, closely followed by Tesco with 20 per cent; other grocery multiples accounted for 26 per cent while other pharmacies/drugstores had a 23 per cent slice of the market.
“Pharmacies are losing their dominance of the winter remedy sector to grocery multiples, which offer greater convenience as well as lower-priced, own-label alternatives,” says a new Mintel report on cold, flu, cough and throat remedies.
But although pharmacy is losing out to grocery in GSL sales, GSK Consumer Healthcare says that pharmacy-strength products and P-line pack sizes can continue to drive sales through the pharmacy channel, especially where professional advice is called for.
Independent and high street pharmacies retain the lion’s share of P-line business, being responsible for 81 per cent of P-line sales compared to just 19 per cent going through in-store pharmacies within grocery multiples (Nielsen value share, year ending July 10, 2010).
Lynne Henshaw, Numark’s director of marketing, advises pharmacies to highlight the message that P medicines are available at the counter.
She says: “Direct your customers to ask for advice – this is, after all, your USP from the grocers.”
She also points out: “It is vital that you don’t forget about children’s medicines. Parents are more likely to purchase for their children than they are for themselves. So it’s essential to display winter remedies for children in a visual position.”
And she adds: “Don’t forget many of your customers suffering with a cough or cold may already be feeling poorly, so make the selection process as simple as possible.”
GSK research shows that those with heavier colds and more personal stress find supermarket shopping particularly unpleasant (in terms of noise, etc) in contrast to shopping at a pharmacy, which was viewed as a more positive experience. When a cold is unfamiliar or a new symptom is experienced, pharmacist advice is also more likely to be sought.
Mintel reports that cold and flu remedies are widely accepted by consumers, with 57 per cent always keeping a supply at home. Half of adults would treat a slight temperature without consulting their doctor, while fewer than three in 10 do nothing and wait for these symptoms to clear up on their own.
When it comes to the methods people choose to alleviate cold and flu symptoms, tablets are the most popular format, with 41 per cent of consumers saying they use them. This is followed by powdered drinks, which are preferred by 29 per cent of people, and capsules, which are used by 24 per cent of consumers.
New ways to treat
Reckitt Benckiser (RB), which is the overall winter remedies market leader with the Lemsip brand, says shoppers are always looking for new and more effective ways of treating their cold or flu symptoms. With its launch of Lemsip Max Lemon Flavour Tablets (see p25), RB is offering consumers the flexibility to choose the product as a tablet or as a hot drink. The company is backing the launch this autumn/winter with a £7m campaign that includes TV and radio advertising.
GSK is also planning to invest £6m in a winter multi-media campaign for Beechams Ultra All in One, which is the strongest all-in-one range from the brand. With this level of investment, the top two winter remedy giants are hopeful their promotional activity will help drive cold and flu product sales in the coming months.
An RB spokesperson comments: “2010-11 looks set to return to stronger growth, perhaps closer to those seen in the 2008-09 season, which would mean growth levels of up to 6 per cent.”
5 tips for boosting winter remedies sales
1. “Ensure beacon brands that are TV-advertised are given adequate space in the pharmacy at the expense of slower-selling products.”
Ed Round, marketing manager,Thornton & Ross
2. “Dummy packs of P-med cough and cold medicines let the customer know that there are other products behind the pharmacy counter. This also gets them access to advice from the pharmacy team.”
Angela Chalmers, pharmacist, Boots
3. “Stocking the market leader in a sub-category will help signpost the customer to the right section. Use brands to clearly define shelf section by symptoms.”
Rob Jackson, UK pharmacy shopper-based design manager, P&G PharmacyCare
4. “Off-shelf displays in the key months of November, December and January are essential to encourage impulse sales, avoid out-of-stocks, tempt non-treaters and drive premium products.”
5. “Utilise a gondola end to highlight winter medicines, not gifts!”
Lynne Henshaw, director of marketing, Numark
Best-selling brands: winter remedies
4. Boots own label
9. Tesco own label
1. Boots own label
9. Night Nurse
Source: Kantar Worldpanel value sales, 52 weeks to August 8, 2010
For a full breakdown of product subcategories, click here
How the subcategories compare
Cold treatments £75m 28.3% -6%
Cough liquids £68.9m 26% +3%
Cough/throat lozenges £60.1m 22.7% +5%
Decongestants £60.9m 23% -4%
Cold treatments £17.2m 22.5% -15%
Cough liquids £24.7m 32.4% -3%
Cough/throat lozenges £14.4m 18.8% -2%
Decongestants £20m 26.2% -13%
Source: Kantar Worldpanel value sales 52 weeks to August 8, 2010
Brands V own label products
Brands 83.8% -2%
Own label 16.2% -3%
Brands 79% -10%
Own label 21% -4%