NEW YORK — The front-end business at drugstores will be at the forefront of discussions during the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Annual Meeting. The event, held at The Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., officially starts tomorrow and concludes on Wednesday.
Although prescriptions count for as much as 60 percent and up of sales at most drugstore chains, it is the nonpharmacy products that deliver profits. With sales dragging in many categories, including beauty, there is an effort to boost sales. Hair care, cosmetics and bath are among categories posting decreases so far in 2004 versus an already tough period a year ago.
For many, bath is one of the most troubling. The category exploded in the early 1990s as both an alterative to fragrances and a way to get incremental sales as consumers looked for products to help them beat stress. Now, however, the bubble has burst. Specialty bath sales, excluding Wal-Mart, declined 5 percent to $249 million for the 52-week period ended March 21, according to Information Resources Inc.
Sales in supermarkets for bath additives sunk 8 percent while drugstores witnessed a 5.6 percent plunge, according to IRI. The only promising news was in bath accessories such as scrubbers and mitts, where dollar volume increased 2 percent to $56.7 million.
Not content to let the business go down the drain, manufacturers and retailers are working to revive the category. Coty’s The Healing Garden, which helped ignite the bath and body phenomenon with its introduction in 1996, is introducing a collection to stir things up. The Healing Garden Fresh Mint Theraphy is Coty’s newest line extension. It is a combination of spearmint, watermint and linden flower, all known to refresh and revitalize. Also, the formulation stars arnica, a well-known antioxidant and skin protectant.
The addition of those properties is in line with The Healing Garden’s efforts to add benefits rather than just scents. The core positioning is that the power of plants helps promote a sense of well-being.
All items are priced at $6.75 and include a body wash, an exfoliating body scrub, a whipped soufflé body cream, a body lotion, a body mist and a room spray. This latest collection from The Healing Garden will be on shelves this August.
While The Healing Garden has launched other scents along the way, what separates this from the others is a new emphasis on the in-store environment. Fresh Mint displays will feature a more prominent product focus with a cleaner approach to highlighting key product attributes and aromatherapeutic ingredients, said Jacqueline Singer, group merchandise manager.
Although The Healing Garden has wilted since its heyday, sales are once again starting to sprout. In the last four- week period, ended March 21, The Healing Garden grew by 6.7 percent to obtain a 19.3 percent share with sales of about $40 million, excluding Wal-Mart. Fresh Mint should add between $10 million to $12 million to the franchise, industry sources estimated.
While The Healing Garden hopes to lead a bath revival, Duane Reade is taking growth into its own hands. According to IRI, private labels are the best-selling bath items. Based on the strong success of its Apt. 5 cosmetics, Duane Reade is rolling out a bath line. Available in three fragrances and one fragrance-free formula, Apt. 5 bath products are designed to create an at-home spa experience.
The flavors are Salsa, Pillow Talk, Forest Zen and Pure. The forms are gels, mists, moisturizing lotions and soaps “on the go.” There are purse-size packets of 10 scented soap sheets. Prices for all products, except the soap, are $7.99. The soap is $1.99. The bath collection will debut this month and be joined by hair care products also under the Apt. 5 logo. Hair care includes three shampoos and corresponding conditioners for volumizing, moisturizing and color-retaining, plus two gels, a styling taffy and pomade.
Karen Durham, former divisional merchandise manager at Duane Reade, created the brand. “We spent a great deal of time building a quality image for Apt. 5 and we are now able to translate that into hair and skin,” Durham said.