By  on March 11, 1994

CHICAGO -- How to handle the increasing abundance of new beauty products flowing into mass market chains was a hot topic last week at a retail forum held here by the Chain Drug Marketing Associates.

About 50 buyers from discount and drugstore chains met with about 100 vendors Friday as part of the association's spring conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Thursday through Sunday.

The retailers' concerns about new product flow were exacerbated by the limitations of display space and the possibility of new products making older inventory redundant.

"How do we manage the proliferation of [stockkeeping units] and get the vendors to take back and give us the best sku's?" said Paige Donnald, buyer for Kerr Drugs, Raleigh, N.C., and co-chair of the forum. "The vendors hear it all the time, but hearing it from a group has more impact."

Buyers said they need help in reducing the inventories of stock no longer being promoted by manufacturers.

"Give us your best products," Donnald said. "Don't let the old products stay on the shelves."

One buyer noted that Procter & Gamble was giving "50 percent markdown money" to retailers for Clarion, which is being phased out.

David Reid, section head of the international patent division of P&G, said the manufacturer has an internal goal to reduce its sku's by 25 percent. He said those borderline sku's represent less than 5 percent of P.&G's volume and are unprofitable.

Retailers also called on vendors to send out a greater number and wider variety of pre-packs -- promotional kits for new products -- to go on countertops so that shelves don't have to be remerchandised.

"We need diversification. A pack that's right for Wal-Mart is too big for a drug store," said Chuck Goutreaux, a buyer for K&B Inc., New Orleans.

Vendors also heard requests for more trial sizes, especially for new products.

Other issues raised at the interactive session included providing more educational materials for consumers, the use of telemarketers versus brokers to service smaller retailers and strategies for drugstores to win back business from mass merchandisers, such as Kmart and Wal-Mart.

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