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HBA Items Fill Niche

April 6, 2017

Because of space constraints and better-equipped competitors, the health and beauty aids (HBA) category in 2017 will fill a role that it has for years in convenience stores: an essential, but unspectacular part of the in-store mix.

From pain relief, cough/cold/allergy, skin medications, vitamins and personal care to smoking cessation, supplements and cosmetics, HBA is a wide-ranging category of items consumers need—often when away from home. Hence, convenient trial sizes, careful pricing and well-stocked shelves will continue to translate into sales dollars.

John Montoya, vice president of store operations for eight-unit JR’s Country Stores, based in Pueblo, Colo., acknowledged that c-stores will never be a destination location for HBA.

“We are at a total disadvantage (competing against chain drug stores, supermarkets and dollar stores),” Montoya said. “People look at us for just the little things they need. If you’ve got a headache, you need some aspirin, you stop at our store. If you have a cold and you’re close by, you will drop by and grab a small container of cough medicine. We just fit the pocket.”

This is borne out by retail trends. As Euromonitor International recently reported, mass-market retailers such as supermarkets and drug stores are expanding their health-and-wellness offerings, including vitamins and dietary supplements, and reorganizing their stores to position these products together. They are also leveraging impulse purchases.

“Customers who come to the store to pick up a prescription or buy an over-the-counter product augment their purchase with vitamins and dietary supplements,” Montoya said.

The drug store channel might have the most selection, but c-stores still offer expediency, even when it comes to cosmetics. Information Resources Inc. (IRI) total All Scan Convenience Store figures for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016 show nails (artificial nails, polish, polish remover, nail treatments and more) at $6.1 million, and accessories (eyelash adhesives and curlers, false eyelashes, makeup applicators, makeup remover) at $4.1 million, among the top-selling items.

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