The potential exists for supermarkets to clean up in terms of solid profits and further sales growth in the facial cleanser category.
According to retailers polled by SN, foaming cleansers and alpha hydrox-related cleansers are movers in what has sometimes become an overcrowded category.
Towne-Oller & Associates, the New York-based subsidiary of Information Resources Inc., Chicago, reported sales of facial cleansers soared 15%
in 1992 at food stores. However, with new-product introductions falling off, sales grew a modest 2% to $109.4 million for the 12 months ended in January 1994.
Many agreed that those figures fit the trend at their stores, but they were not unanimous on whether those statistics mean facial cleansers still have more room for growth or if they have finally peaked.
Facial cleansers "have grown for consumers. And they will grow some more before the category levels out," said Stan Zatica, vice president and head of nonfood for Z Inc., an eight-store retailer in Homedale, Idaho. "I expect some very moderate growth," said Ron Ruder, a health and beauty care buyer for Fleming Cos. based in Topeka, Kan. "We haven't seen too many new products."
Many retailers said that absence of new products is the main reason overall sales for facial cleansers are flat.
"Usually when you get a new product, the manufacturer spends some money and that drives the whole category. Those new products are what [the facial cleanser category] is lacking right now," said Frank Kirchner, general buyer for Knowlan's Super Markets, a seven-store operator based in St. Paul, Minn. "There's not too much action [in the category]," agreed Renee Seaman, HBC buyer for the 15-store Rogers Markets, based in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Other retailers said they have seen growth in facial cleansers; but only in some segments.
"In some products, there's been growth. Mostly the teen products," said Gloria McQuillen, HBC and general merchandise merchandiser at Family Food Stores, a six-store independent based in Tipton, Iowa.
"The growth is in the teen market," agreed Zatica of Z Inc. "But the adult market is also growing."
Supermarket retailers admit they must constantly monitor the tumultuous crowd of facial cleansers to keep them on the strictest of sales paths. But they say manufacturers must offer a base of support for facial cleansers to achieve any type of satisfactory sales.
"Manufacturers have been hitting hard, [trying to promote] a lot of [facial cleanser] products," said Karen Swanda, HBC department manager at the Waite Park, Minn., store of Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn.
"Manufacturers drop more freestanding inserts than anything else. But anytime they can get print ads in national magazines that compare them with their higher-priced department store counterparts, that always helps, too," said Seaman of Rogers. "And there's been quite a bit of that lately."
Supermarkets, too, can guide the category growth.
"Continual promotional activity can help retailers [breathe life into the category]. An ad feature or temporary price reduction at the proper times works well, like at back-to-school time, midterms and such," said Ruder of Fleming.
Seaman said one problem in the category is that "there are too many facial cleansers out there; people don't know what to pick."
But when consumers do make a choice and pick up a facial cleanser, the margins can be quite lucrative. "It seems to be a category where mass discounters are picking one or two items to discount heavily, but overall it's a category that's very profitable" for supermarkets, said Ruder.
"It's something we can compete with because it's more impulse than a planned item," added Jim Miner Jr., HBC buyer for Miner's, a 16-store chain in Hermantown, Minn.
Seaman added that "the foaming cleansers are the hot sellers."
"The alpha hydrox seems to be moving well. That seems to be the be the key word in facial. Anything water-based-related or hydrox related right now is moving well," Ruder said.