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Supermarket NONFOODS Business: Sun care for all seasons

People are spending more time than ever in the sun, yet they're also more aware of the damage it can do to their skin. Together those trends suggest a sunny forecast for sun care sales in 2004, especially for retailers that maintain a year-round display of the hottest new items.

"There's a terrific opportunity for food retailers to offer sun protection products," says Jay Joyce, v.p. of sales and customer service at Schering-Plough Consumer Healthcare, maker of Coppertone products. "The trend continues to be toward year-round protection. Food stores tend to have a lot of traffic and shopping frequency, so they can capitalize on this behavior."

Skin cancer is now considered the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 1 million new cases diagnosed every year, according to the American Cancer Society. Next to staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen has proved to be a sun lover's best defense.

Yet supermarkets have typically been more apt to merchandise sun protection solely during the summer. That means they could be missing opportunities for incremental sales, according to several leading sun care suppliers. As more people vacation in off-summer months, spend more time outdoors involved in physical activities, and use tanning beds to darken their complexions, the demand for protection is widening. The trend has even impacted other areas of skin care, as many makeup and face care manufacturers add SPF protection to their lines.

The upswing in year-round sun exposure was a key driver in a new advertising campaign debuting next month from Radiant Technologies, Inc., makers of Sea & Ski. The lighthearted television and print campaign, called "One," targets active consumers who buy sun care at all times of the year, whether they're vacationing, playing golf, or snowboarding. A spring version of the campaign will run from April through June.

"Everyone's traveling to warmer destinations during the winter, and our research shows that sun care is a planned purchase," notes Sea & Ski brand manager Nicole Terrero. "That's one reason we're doing the winter campaign. It's not typical for the category, but we want to support retailers and push sales a little during the slower months."

The campaign highlights Sea & Ski's All Day line of sunscreen, introduced at the beginning of 2003. All Day products contain Proderm technology, so they consist of a light, nongreasy foam that's absorbed instantly into the skin. Another bonus: One application lasts eight hours. Since the product is so different from existing sun care items, the campaign will help familiarize consumers with the idea before summer hits, Terrero points out.

Schering-Plough Consumer Healthcare is another sun care supplier that's making strides in boosting supermarket sales year-round. The company offers a range of Coppertone promotional displays and fixtures to drive impulse sales, as well as racks on wheels that can be moved to the front of the store for those unexpected sunny days that occur throughout the year.

"It's important for food retailers to offer some type of reduced sunscreen section during the off-seasons. We wouldn't suggest the whole seasonal section, but they should have the leading sellers on a year-round basis," Joyce says.

Regional opportunities

Retailers should also be tuned in to merchandising on a regional basis, since selling seasons can fluctuate from market to market, according to Joyce. "In Florida it's smart to have products up right after Christmas. Then, as the season cascades up and across the country, retailers should be ready to go to grab that first purchase," he advises. "Look at the seasonality of the market, and get significantly in advance of it to capture people who are planning to travel away from your market, as well as being ready when the season hits your area."

Stores located near ski resorts have a perfect opportunity for sun care sales, notes Banana Boat's v.p. of marketing, Parker Gilbert. "Strategic displays also present an off-season opportunity if a store has a strong indoor tanning or sunless business, or caters to a demographic that's likely to take a mid-winter vacation for spring break or Presidents' Day weekend," he adds.

For 2004 there are plenty of hot new items for retailers to include in their lineups. Here are a few to make note of:

--Coppertone is introducing Endless Summer Sheer Sunscreen to appeal to beauty-conscious women who want to combat wrinkles while avoiding sunburn. The line contains an antioxidant called A07. It follows the 2003 debut of Endless Summer Sunless Tanner.

--Banana Boat is launching Banana Boat Surf SPF 30, touted as "the ultimate sunblock for outdoor water enthusiasts." Surf contains a patented Aquashield H2O formula, which provides instant waterproof sun protection and lasts eight hours, according to Gilbert.

--Also look for Banana Boat's new Suntanicals SPF 30 and Suntanicals Aftersun Lotion. The products, which follow the 2003 launch of Suntanicals, are enriched with aloe, lavender, and chamomile. Suntanicals Aftersun also contains the antioxidant lutein, designed to help reduce signs of sun damage.

--Banana Boat is also expanding its popular Kids line with a Banana Boat Kids SPF 50 lotion. In addition, its Quik Blok trigger spray product for kids is being upgraded from an SPF 25 to 35.

--Sea & Ski is expanding its All Day line with Kid's All Day SPF 30, as well as Sport All Day SPF 15 and SPF 30. In addition, the company's use of Proderm technology is being extended to a new aloe after-sun therapy moisturizer.

--For the winter Sea & Ski is offering a Faces and Lip combo pack, which is especially great for skiers, according to Terrero. The pack, which includes SPF 50 Faces lotion and SPF 50 lip balm, retails for a suggested $3.99.
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