HBC: Selling the Sniffles

Retailers take a cue from the weather when stocking HBC shelves

Abbey Lewis, Editor in Chief, CSProducts

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Put another way, no matter the pendulum of weather, there are sacred seasonal truths. “Allergy relief in the spring, outdoor skin-care protection in summer and on-demand trial sizes for both,” says Rossberger. “Of course, whatever the season there will continue to be strong demand for the top-selling HBC staples in analgesics and gastrointestinal relief.”

Front and Center

Proper category management of HBC can be a challenge for retailers of any size. But doing the research and making the tough choices about what to sell and where can mean big payoffs.

“The top 10 HBC subcategories make up over 80% of total dollar sales in this category,” Rossberger says. “The basic message is simple: Rather than trying to be all things to all customers, the truly profitable store should not be complicated, confused or cluttered, but focus on the top movers in national and value brands.”

In the summer, it’s also important to remember that there could be more flying off the shelves than just allergy medication. Families on road trips or beach vacations will need travel-friendly HBC “essentials” such as sunscreen and lip balm. These items should be placed in easy-to-shop locations favorable to impulse purchasing.

“Use displays to create ‘points of interruptions’ in primary traffic flow or at the sales counter,” LaManna says. “Small-footprint secondary displays of the best-selling name brand cold/flu and allergy/sinus OTC medications during the cold/flu and allergy/sinus seasons will help maximize sales. By carrying the best-selling SKUs, the retailer has an easy exit strategy by incorporating the SKUs into their in-line set at the end of the season.”

Questioning Category Management

Independent retailer Sam Odeh switches up HBC merchandising at his Power Market store in Elmhurst, Ill., to give better play to higher-margin items.


All HBC items were displayed behind the counter, at customers’ eye level. Stock was more numerous and more varied depending on the season. Despite the higher billing, he says he had “low sales and diminished demands from consumers to the HBC products due to mass merchandisers and national drug chains in the marketplace.”


Regardless of the season, his stock remains static. He removed all HBC to the backbar area and the lower shelves of a fixture that also houses tobacco, placing more tobacco product in the area previously held by HBC. Because of dwindling inventory, Odeh had to move HBC from in-store merchandising to a limited cashier area around tobacco merchandisers. But he’s not giving up hope: “We look forward to some involvement from the HBC companies to bring attention and direction to the current state [of HBC] in our stores.”


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