LAS VEGAS -- Supermarkets are beginning to stem the loss of health and beauty care dollars, but they still are missing opportunities, exhibitors at the seventh Exclusively HBA Trade Show said.
The show, held here Feb. 19 and 20, was a scaled-down version of previous events, with 83 assigned exhibit booths. Several exhibitors were asked what they could expect from the supermarket channel this year. Category management and convenience were cited as factors helping grocery stores regain their share of the nonfood market.
"Category management is helping to abate the share losses in food and refocus the way the categories are trending," said Scott Roberts, vice president of business relations at Gillette Co., Boston, Mass.
He said he expects the erosion that food stores have experienced in health and beauty care to continue to slow due to the efforts of some progressive chains. Roberts counted Wegmans Food Markets, H.E. Butt Grocery Co., Kroger Co. and Pathmark Stores among those chains.
The movement of bar soaps from grocery into the HBC aisle by Abco, Safeway and Spartan Stores illustrates the fact that supermarkets are beginning to realize missed opportunities, said one beauty care executive, who asked to remain anonymous.
"We are looking at food to be the driving force for us in 1996 from the standpoint of nonfood vs. food," the executive said. "With our food customers recognizing that more meals are being prepared outside of the home and food dollars are diminishing, they need to be looking at HBC/GM as a growing opportunity," he noted.
But there are growth categories and entrepreneurial-type products that are being missed and left undeveloped, suppliers said.
"Vitamins is an underdeveloped category in grocery and it is being driven primarily by the mass merchandising segment," said J. Kelly Michols, vice president of sales, operations and development at Sundown Vitamins, Boca Raton, Fla.
Sundown's mission will be to convince supermarkets to devote more space and effort to a category that Michols says is profitable and growing fast.
With supermarket and drug store profits being squeezed, retailers have failed to see opportunities in merchandising entrepreneurial items, said David Biernbaum, a partner in IBN International, a company based in Chesterfield, Mo., that makes licensed personal care products for children.
Biernbaum said retailers' requests for "megadollars in advertising, slotting and merchandising allowances" have forced companies like IBN to bypass food and drug chains in favor of other forms of distribution such as infomercials or going directly to mass merchandisers. "They [food/drug] are shutting out all the novel, neat, creative entrepreneurial products," Biernbaum said.