Over the last few months, wholesalers and their retailer customers have played a crucial role in supporting local communities and shopper needs.

We’re seeing consumers regularly shop at their local stores, and with this likely to continue for the long term, there’s a great opportunity for the convenience channel to meet consumer need for over-the-counter cold and flu treatments as we move towards the autumn and winter months.

“OTC solutions are becoming a popular purchase for consumers, as they seek self-treatments,” comments Paul Trethewy, Controller for Wholesale and Convenience at GSK. “The cold & flu sector has seen a growth in shoppers across most age groups, presenting a great opportunity for retailers to build their offering in store.”

The cold treatments sector continues to grow upwards of +5%, whilst hay fever remedies has seen a +8.1% share increase within the convenience channel (Kantar).

“Therefore, it’s crucial that both wholesalers and retailers are prepared by stocking well-known brands such as Beechams and Piri, that will reassure shoppers when looking for over-the-counter medication,” says Trethewy.

“With the NHS continuing to face overwhelming pressure and with GP’s deprescribing cold medication, we’re expecting the impulse channel to be an important provider of over-the-counter cold and flu treatments,” adds Trethewy.

Many shoppers are increasingly looking to self-treat their cold and flu symptoms, so its important wholesalers are aware of which sectors within the OTC and winter remedies category are thriving, to help equip their depots with the most lucrative sales opportunities. With the multi-symptom sector seeing the highest rate of holding shoppers in the cold and flu category and the sore throat sector seeing the fastest growth (Kantar), it’s important that wholesalers are equipped to match this supply level, ensuring their depot is stocked with recognisable brands that consumers will gravitate towards.

GSK brand Beechams has must-stock products to drive sales, designed for treating multi-symptoms, making it a convenient solution for shoppers as they look for cold and flu medication. The brand’s All-In-One range gained a +1.2% increase in value sales in the last year (Nielsen). Stocking a portfolio of Beechams, including the brand’s powder and liquid products, will enable retailers to cater for multiple consumer needs, a GSK statement said.

“When we combine the number of people visiting GPs due to cough and congestion symptoms, cold and flu is the second most common minor ailment that leads to these visits,” continues Trethewy. “With the current situation meaning the NHS continues to face pressure, many shoppers are increasingly looking to self-treat their cold and flu symptoms, but with an emphasis on maximum impact.”

This is highlighted by Beechams All-In-One Max Strength Capsules seeing an +87.3% influx in value sales leading up to and during the lockdown (Nielsen). Cold & flu therefore provides the biggest opportunity for retailers to win in the Self Care arena.

“It’s important that wholesalers work closely with retailers to offer a full range of products that are easily identifiable on-shelf,” adds Trethewy. “By stocking Beechams, a product that tackles both cough and congestion, independent retailers can improve their cold & flu offering for consumers.”

Over the last two years, multi-symptom and decongestants are the only two sectors, in the cold and flu category, that have seen sustained growth in the convenience channel, growing at +5.5% and +4.5% respectively (Kantar).

The performance of the multi-symptom segment has also seen a positive increase in frequency of sales (Kantar), demonstrating consumer demand for this type of cold and flu treatment.

Beechams has seen its value growth double and its volume of sales triple at the rate of the cold and flu category (Nielsen), over the course of Covid-19. This indicates how the pandemic has put self-care firmly at the forefront of consumers’ minds, as shoppers are wanting to self-treat effectively, and therefore take comfort from multi-symptom solutions This reinforces the mass opportunity that the cold and flu category holds for wholesalers and their retailer customers, especially with the upcoming winter season.

Even though summer is coming to an end, allergy treatments are sought-after all year round by shoppers. Piri continues to be the UK’s No.1 selling allergy care brand , outperforming competitor brands in the impulse channel (Nielsen). This reinforces that wholesalers and retailers need to place value on reputable companies like GSK, and amplifies how Piri products such as Piriteze tables are must stock OTC treatments.

“It’s vital to stock different OTC formats covering allergy and cold and flu symptoms, in order to accommodate all consumer needs,” advises Trethewy. “With consumer shopping habits adapting to the challenges of Covid-19, we’ve seen more consumers shopping in their local convenience stores for over-the-counter cold and flu treatments to self-treat ailments. Wholesalers should anticipate the rise in demand within this channel, and ensure they have a full portfolio of products to meet the demand from retailers, who will be looking to keep their shelves constantly stocked.”

It’s also worth considering how wholesalers can meet the demand for other OTC solutions that shoppers will be looking for. Allergies are a common and all-year round issue amongst shoppers, highlighted by 58% of Brits admitting to suffering from a type of allergy.

Lucy Rigby, Senior Brand Manager, Tixylix, comments: “With what has been a turbulent year so far, the Coronavirus crisis has set an un-precedented demand for at-home remedies, particularly in the cough and cold sector. Lockdown restrictions, alongside the lack of out of home healthcare readily available, has led to parents to seek over the counter medicines to soothe their children at home if they are displaying symptoms.”

As we approach the winter months, parents will be looking to stock up on cough and cold remedies in preparation for the flu and cold season. In March, the stockpiling phase in the Coronavirus crisis delivered a second spike in sales, equivalent to the peak of the winter season. Those with young children are expected to have even more due-diligence than in previous years, exercising more caution with symptoms, and also in case we experience a second wave of lockdown. Convenience purchases of OTC medicines are likely to be in extremely high demand if this is the case.

As a heritage brand, Tixylix has been supporting parents for generations, with its range of specifically formulated cough medicines for children aged 3 months to 5 years. The Tixylix range offers three tailored products to suit each phase of a child’s development.

As a recently acquired brand to Thornton and Ross, plans are in place for product extensions in the coming years.

Tixylix is supported by an integrated PR and digital marketing campaign, with a highly engaged social media programme. The brand introduced a new website earlier in 2020 which features the Tixylix Activity Hub; a highly informative advice forum filled with helpful tips and tricks to help entertain kids at home. It also includes easy DIYs, free downloads and expert advice to maximise engagement with the target demographic. 2021 will see a further upweighted campaign, building on the foundations that were set this year.

“Consumer insights indicate that, as this is a distress purchase, many parents will panic buy if their child displays cough symptoms in order to soothe them as quickly as possible,” comments Rigby. “If this happens late at night, the ease of being able to purchase a cough syrup at their local shop will most certainly maximise sales for convenience and independent retailers.”

The IRI data indicates that when the country went into lockdown at the end of March, consumers continued stockpiling over several weeks. However, in line with the closure of schools and subsequent lower transmission rates we have now seen this levelling off. “Going forward, we believe that parents will be much more conscious of their children’s health risks as schools and nurseries reopen, and are likely to stock up on OTC medicines prior to the peak winter months,” says Rigby.

“With our wholesalers, we place great importance on understanding who their customers are so we can tailor our plans specifically – targeting the customer’s customer,” adds Rigby. “This means that we can develop a range which resonates best with their target demographic, tailoring promotions around the season and wholesaler’s specific requirements with the most appropriate promotional mechanic to appeal to the wholesaler’s customer base. Where possible, we seek to educate the retailer as well as price promote.”

Victoria Gell, Fruity Confections Portfolio Director, Mars Wrigley, comments: “With most adults experiencing two to four colds a year, stocking winter remedies during the cold season offers retailers a huge opportunity as category sales increase.”

As a familiar and trusted brand, Lockets has helped to keep Brits going through the winter months for many years. A brand consumers depend on to help them get through the day with a clear head, Lockets contains a soothing liquid centre and clearing menthol, whilst its double action formula is one that can be relied upon to calm stubborn coughs and colds and ease discomfort. Each pack contains 10 sweets and the range includes three delicious flavours – Honey & Lemon, Extra Strong and Cranberry & Blueberry.

“Medicated confectionery is widely recognised as a distress purchase and, as such, offers a huge opportunity for convenience store owners to capitalise on impulse sales during the winter cold and flu season,” says Jon R White, Regional Business Manager for Fisherman’s Friend in the UK.

The convenience and wholesale channels have contributed 29% of all sales of Fisherman’s Friend so far this year – the largest contribution of any single channel (Ceuta). Furthermore, the brand’s sales are up by +2.8% across the total market, with 26% of all sales completed by the grocery multiple sector, 24% from the discount channel and 21% from pharmacy (Ceuta).

“Fisherman’s Friend continues to be a star performer in the wholesale and convenience sector, and this is driven by the brand’s year-round proposition so it’s essential that wholesalers remain stocked up all year round for retailers who want make the most of this sales opportunity,” explains White.

“It is well-known that menthol and eucalyptus can help keep winter ailments at bay, but they are also useful at other times, too, for example to relieve symptoms of hay fever, and another strong year of growth demonstrates the brand continues to be an essential must-stock.

“As we head into the cold and flu season, we advise both wholesalers and retailers to monitor the level of incidents of coughs and colds to ensure they are able to maximise sales by meeting consumer demand for cost-effective remedies, such as lozenges.”

Fisherman’s Friend will invest heavily in marketing again this year, with a continuation of the brand’s fully integrated two-year campaign, ‘Whatever the Day Throws at You’, featuring digital, social media and PR activity. This includes the brand returning to TV screens nationwide to support the winter sales period as part of a £1.5m burst of activity.

“Our campaign celebrates the brand’s fishing heritage which has been at the heart of the family-owned business since 1865. The timings coincide with the cold and flu season where we traditionally see a spike in demand, and our strong start to the year proves how much sales growth benefits from marketing support,” explains White.

“Last year’s campaign reached 64% of the UK adult population and successfully kept lozenges front of consumers’ minds. As such, it is a natural decision to repeat the activity and we’re confident that it will help to further boost sales for Fisherman’s Friend.”

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