SAN DIEGO -- Supermarkets and those serving the grocery channel will explore ways to expand on the self-help health concept at the upcoming Marketplace Conference here, June 15 to 18.
This concept was introduced last month during a presentation given at the HBC Marketing Conference by the General Merchandise Distributors Council, Colorado Springs, Colo. The presentation, "Growing Opportunities for Food Retailers in Do It Yourself Health," was part of a Willard Bishop Consulting study that documented the potential for providing a wellness solution to shoppers by using four health-oriented categories.
"Herbs and vitamins and that whole realm are going to really blossom," said Dick Swain, president of Associated Wholesale Grocers' Valu Merchandisers nonfood division, Kansas City, Kan.
Swain, along with his pharmacy director, will be attending Marketplace, sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va., for the first time. The conference has become a "must-go" industry nonfood event, according to those polled by SN.
This year 650 exhibit booths, representing health and beauty care, general merchandise and convenience food and beverage companies, will be featured on the trade show floor. Approximately 3,500 industry executives are expected to participate.
"I won't necessarily be attending for HBC since we just ended GMDC's HBC Marketing Conference. I'm really going to learn a little more about the pharmacy business," Swain said. "General information is what I'm looking for. We're also concerned about government regulations of over-the-counter products," he added.
Valu Merchandisers is interested in looking at the do-it-yourself health concept, which is a major area poised for growth, said Swain.
Wellness and health maintenance products that are part of the emerging trend of self-help wellness centers in supermarkets also will be a focus at the NACDS event for Millbrook Distribution Services, Leicester, Mass., according to Ron Williams, vice president of HBC purchasing.
"These are areas that we'll be developing more because we think this is a new opportunity for growth for the supermarket industry," he said.
Products of special interest will be similar to items sold at General Nutrition Centers, such as power-building drinks that are geared more to "young, active people who exercise a lot and take nutritional supplements," Williams said.
Wellness/health maintenance is viewed by Williams as preventative and health maintenance, which encompasses health care and self-medication.
According to the Millbrook executive, the NACDS event is important. "It's one we consider to be equivalent to the International Housewares Show for general merchandise.
"It gives us a chance to see new products and what's coming in over-the-counter switches. It's also good for building better relationships with suppliers for improved category management and store-level detailing services," he added.
Executives at Shopko Stores, Green Bay, Wis., will be at the convention looking at new product trends, particularly in nail care treatments, including scented polishes, said an aide in the buying office.
"Buyers will be searching for cosmetics bags, novelty cosmetics and anything that lends itself to Christmas. A new area for growth is in the novelty nail care area," the aide said.
"In fact, nail enamels, scented nail enamels and other novelty nail products like New Attitude, are blowing out of the water," the aide said.
Several executives from PIA Merchandising, Irvine, Calif., will be at the NACDS event to unveil its service program for drug store retailers at the convention, explained Art Portugal, executive vice president for client services.
An area that will surely generate a lot of interest among attendees is the recent consolidation of large drug chains such as J.C. Penney/Eckerd and CVS/Revco. "As we watch the drug store business consolidate, everybody is watching closely to see what happens, and the strength that builds around these consolidations," Portugal said.
The self-help health care field offers expanding sales potential, Portugal said. PIA has started to provide merchandising services to pharmacies for Indianapolis-based Boehringer Mannheim Corp.'s diabetic diagnostic devices.
Such products "lend themselves to the emphasis that supermarkets have started to place on wellness centers," Portugal said. "As that evolves, there will be a need to help store personnel understand the category, and provide fresh point-of-sale material to help sell the products," he added.
When contacted, Tod Marks, director of HBC at Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, wasn't sure yet whether he and other Fleming nonfood executives would be going to the NACDS show. If he attends, it would be Fleming's first NACDS convention, he said. "I'd want to know who is there so that we can determine what kind of conversations we can have with those folks. We want to get an idea of what level of executives from the vendor side attend NACDS," said Marks.