Getting children to brush their teeth is sometimes like pulling teeth. However, supermarkets have taken up the challenge to get kids to brush their teeth by stocking the many new and often gimmicky children's toothbrushes that have flooded the market. Among the gimmicks currently available in children's toothbrushes are neon colors, colors that change during usage, squiggly handles and licensed characters.
Category sales are on the rise and are expected to continue increasing, according to a majority of the retailers contacted by SN. In addition to increasing category sales, retailers find the segment adds variety to their oral care departments, and as high-impulse items, children's toothbrushes are being successfully cross-merchandised in other sections of the store.
"We feel children's toothbrushes will be a growing segment of the toothbrush category and will increase category sales. Our sales are definitely going up. A lot has to do with exposure," said Dan Van Zant, general merchandise supervisor of Ray's Sentry Markets, Brookings, Ore., a 29-unit chain.
"We have been increasing the number of stockkeeping units and improving their position. They used to be merchandised off the top shelf. You need to keep that merchandise at eye level," he said.
Warren Guidry, buyer-merchandiser at Cannata's Food World, Morgan City, La., said sales of children's toothbrushes are currently rising, and that trend is expected to continue.
"I don't think children's toothbrushes represent a big segment, but it does serve to increase the overall variety and makes people more aware of the category. The overall impact has probably been positive," said Dick Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser at Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind.
The account manager for an HBC distributor that serves retailers on the East Coast said children's toothbrushes have "tremendous potential" and are great impulse items.
"The children's toothbrushes that are selling are more of a novelty item. People are not buying them for their performance so much as for the character or license. Even the colors are more of a novelty. Parents are more concerned about getting the kids to brush and not that concerned about what kind of toothbrush they use," the account manager said.
"We have not seen a big fluctuation in sales, but I think there is potential for greater sales [of children's toothbrushes]," said John Coker, general merchandise supervisor at Food Giant, Seattle.
"Parents are willing to spend money to get their children to brush their teeth more often. I think children's toothbrushes will add some growth to the category," said Renee Seaman, HBC buyer for Rogers Markets, Fort Wayne, Ind.
However, she added, greater growth can be expected for adult toothbrushes.
"The sales are still in the adult, because those are changing constantly. We go to the dentist more often. There will be more growth in items for kids, but we will still see more growth in adults' [toothbrushes]," Seaman said.
Most of the retailers contacted said they display children's toothbrushes with other toothbrushes of the same brand, usually at eye level.
However, some retailers pointed out that they have been able to boost sales by cross-merchandising in other departments that have appeal for children, either on clip strips that attach to a shelf or with a freestanding display. The account manager for the HBC distributor serving East Coast retailers said he has planogrammed children's toothbrushes in-line in the toothbrush section, but also tries to cross-merchandise them in other areas of the store, such as the cereal aisle or toy section.
"There we can J-hook or have a small floorstand of children's toothbrushes. Probably 50% of sales come from the cross-merchandising activity as opposed to sales out of the regular section," he said.
"To increase impulse sales on children's toothbrushes, we have been clip-stripping them in the cereal section. Typically, children will pick out their own favorite cereals. We are selling as many children's toothbrushes off of the clip strips as out of the regular section," said Van Zant of Ray's Sentry Markets.
Putting the toothbrushes within children's reach could be a factor in increasing sales of the item, said Guidry of Cannata's Food World.
"We have tried cross-merchandising and it works well. We do it sporadically, depending on the time of year. We find we can sell more from clip strips. Our sales increase when we cross-merchandise," Guidry said.
Kim Botkin, nonfood buyer at Gerland's Food Fair, Houston, spoke for most of the retailers contacted when he said slow movers are deleted to make room for new items in the category.
"We have 80 slots, so we carry 80 toothbrushes. The weak sisters have to go. Everyone keeps coming up with new children's toothbrushes," he said.
Sizemore of Pay Less predicted more new items in the children's toothbrush category, but others said the ones tied in with cartoon shows most likely will be discontinued to make room for the new entries.
"As licensed goods have come out, the old standard ones have fallen. We don't stock a plain Colgate children's toothbrush anymore, but we have their Aladdin. We don't have a plain Oral B children's toothbrush, but we have their Sesame Street. We dropped the slower movers," said the account manager for the East Coast HBC distributor.
Pay Less Supermarkets has remerchandised the entire dental care department and increased the space for toothbrushes, Sizemore told SN.
Where some stores may have had toothbrushes in a 4-foot section on the top shelf, the remerchandising has expanded the space to two or three shelves in a 4-foot department, with children's and specialty toothbrushes placed at eye level, he said.
Ray's Sentry Markets is increasing space for oral hygiene by 30% as part of the total general merchandise and health and beauty care resets, Van Zant said.
The resets started in November and will continue through this year. Seven of the 29 stores in the chain have undergone the reset, he said.
"As we reset the stores, those that had 8 feet for oral hygiene are now going to 12 feet, and those that had 12 feet are going to 16 feet. This provides us with the opportunity to get in more stockkeeping units," he said.
"We don't want to lose business to mass merchandisers and discounters. We want to offer variety, even though toothpaste may be a less profitable category. To offset that, we hope to increase sales of toothbrushes, flosses and other more profitable dental care products. Toothbrushes are higher impulse than toothpaste and a lot higher profit," Van Zant said.
"We are aggressively merchandising children's toothbrushes. That is a tremendous impulse category. We are trying to take advantage of different character licenses being used by manufacturers," the account manager for the East Coast HBC distributor said.
"Right now Aladdin is hot. It seems almost any license that is put out there does very well. Manufacturers keep coming out with new licenses and new novelty ideas that go even beyond children to older children. We plan to start targeting teens with neon toothbrushes." According to Botkin of Gerland's, "Aladdin is still a little hot, but it won't be long before he is old news. It is hard to stay real current with those licensed characters."