Summer Vacation: Is Your Store Ready?

Preparing your product mix for the summer travel season

HBC products in convenience store

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- After this winter’s sub-zero temperatures and record-breaking snowfall, many people are eagerly anticipating the arrival of summer—and summer vacation especially. In fact, a recent Tripadvisor survey found that 78% of respondents plan to travel this summer between June and August, and 30% plan on traveling in the month of July.

With so many people on the move this season, it’s imperative for retailers to prepare their health and beauty care (HBC) product mixes and merchandising efforts to meet the needs of summer travelers seeking vacation and travel essentials. And done right, retailers can use the summer travel season to create a significant revenue boost from these products.

Although HBC accounts for less than 2% of total in-store sales, most products in the category have high profit margin potential for retailers, according to Paul Rossberger, vice president of sales and marketing for Lil’ Drug Store Products. He says that by using category-management strategies—such as offering value-brand alternatives for top-moving products and pricing items consistently—retailers can create more sales opportunities by making sure that customers can find what they’re looking for at a reasonable price.

Kirk Bailey, category manager for McLane, says that some of the best-selling HBC products during summer travel season include sunscreen and after-sun care, insect sprays and even lip balm. “You wouldn’t necessarily think about it,” he said, “but lip balm sales are typically good in the summer.” He also notes that allergy remedies can be a good performer since some people still suffer from allergies during the warm summer months, and it can also be a good idea for retailers to stock travel-size items like toothpaste and other toiletries.

However, Bailey also said that since most HBC products fulfill year-round needs, like pain relief and antacids, retailers don’t necessarily need to purchase new inventory in order to appeal to travelers. Instead, they can focus on the placement and merchandising of their existing HBC products so customers can find them easily. “A big part of a retailer’s strategy should be advertising and promotion of these products,” he said. “Retailers should at least be signing or calling out these products.”

Bailey suggests using off-shelf or secondary placements near the register to prominently feature HBC travel essentials. Similarly, McLane offers a roll-around cart that can be placed in various areas showcasing top-selling seasonal items.

Retailers also need to keep in mind that summer travelers aren’t just looking for HBC products at c-stores—they’re also shopping for these essentials at drugstores. Thus, it’s more important than ever for c-stores to offer at least a few HBC product options for customers. “In the last several years, we’ve seen a real blur in channels,” Bailey said. “C-stores are making the right move by looking at drugstores, not just other c-stores, as competitors.”

Bailey also says that while summer travel represents a huge portion of overall travel every year, the reality is that people travel during all times of the year. “Once spring break starts, people are already traveling,” he said. “C-stores have to be ready with a game plan. The time is now.”