Women are buying more condoms than ever. This shift from male to female purchasers of prophylactics offers retailers an opportunity to better capitalize on what has been a sensitive consumer product category for supermarkets. Women, after all, are supermarkets' primary audience. "The whole industry now realizes women purchase the majority of condoms. Product packaging today, using pastel colors, is dressier and appeals more to women," said Charles Yahn, vice president of
Although the intense media attention given to AIDS has subsided from several years ago, the subject continues to give the condom category new play in ads.
Sales at food stores were up a modest 3% last year to $59.6 million for the 12 months ended in February 1994, according to Towne-Oller & Associates, New York, a subsidiary of Information Resources Inc., Chicago.
To maximize their sales in this category, retailers are expanding product assortments by stocking the larger 6- and 12-count packs, and positioning the products in feminine hygiene sections for the convenience of women shoppers.
Condoms are merchandised on Peg-Boards at the feminine hygiene sections at Big Y Supermarkets, Springfield, Mass., and larger 6-count packs are selling better than the three-packs, said Jan Winn, director of health and beauty care and general merchandise.
Winn said she sees the condom category taking on new meaning as manufacturers increasingly attempt to market their products to the female shopper. "Manufacturers are marketing male condom products toward women shoppers, who are at the grocery store more frequently," she said.
Education about AIDS and the greater awareness of sexually transmitted diseases also have been driving factors in boosting condom sales, said Winn.
"You now see messages on TV about AIDS that feature a woman. This is a form of mass education about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. What this does is focus new attention on the condom category."
At Reams Food Stores, Salt Lake City, "women are starting to purchase more condoms as they become more conscious of their own needs and more assertive by no longer taking anything for granted," said Cloy Johnson, HBC buyer.
At Associated Wholesalers, "the category appears to be growing, and this will continue as the products get more space," said Yahn.
He said retailers on average now allocate 12 linear feet of space to condoms, which is double the previous display area.
"Younger shoppers don't seem to have the hang-ups of purchasing condoms at the supermarket. The category appears to be growing, especially with the larger, multi, 6- and 12-count packs. "
The reason behind the pickup in sales of the larger count packs is that "shoppers don't want to buy condoms every time they come through the checkouts," said Yahn.
Most stores display condoms at feminine hygiene or at a controlled area like a pharmacy counter to reduce pilferage, he added.
Pay Less Supermarkets, Anderson, Ind., is adding shelf space for condoms, according to Dick Sizemore, nonfood merchandiser.
The chain increased selling space to a 4-foot department at feminine hygiene. Prior to this change, "we had only a piece of Peg-Board and one shelf. And a few years ago we didn't even carry condoms," said Sizemore.
"There's a whole new emphasis on condoms. Younger customers, including a lot more women, are buying condoms today based more over concerns about AIDS than about preventing pregnancies," said Sizemore.
He remains optimistic about future category growth. "Probably sales of condoms would be even greater if it weren't for schools that are making them available free to students in many large cities."
Retailers supplied by Certified Grocers Midwest, Hodgkins, Ill., are widening their condom variety by adding larger 6- and 12-count packs.
"We're doing well with the smaller packages, so why not try trading up? We'll will be getting into the larger packages to see what we can do with those," said Jerry Willts, director of general merchandise and HBC.
"Women have become a greater purchaser of condoms than men. This used to be the reverse a few years ago. Women today will carry their own packet of male condoms in their purse," Willts said.
Condoms are merchandised at the pharmacy departments at those stores that have pharmacies, and at feminine hygiene sections at stores without pharmacies.
The general merchandise division of Supervalu's Wetterau subsidiary in Palmer, Pa., is offering a broader condom variety to its retailers.
John Hall, head HBC buyer, said the selection will include value priced items so consumers will have added choices in the category.
"We've added Class Act, a new line from Carter Wallace that's not associated with Trojan. It's more of a generic-type product that's value-priced in attractive packaging," he said.
Hall said the line was added so retailers could increase their condom sections and boost category volume. "It's a line retailers can offer at a lower retail than national brands. There's enough of a difference that it may make an impression," said Hall. Although the retails are lower, the line "still has the quality."