Progressive Grocer

MAR 2017

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Nonfoods Health, Beauty & Wellness Vitamin Hack Value-oriented promos, on-trend offerings and smart merchandising can lift the VMS category. By Barbara Sax P romotions dominate the vitamin/mineral/sup- plement (VMS) category, and if retailers aren't careful, the practice can erode profitability. "About one-third of sales volume in the category is during times when products are sold on promotion, price cut, display fixtures with ads or with coupons," says Sue Viamari, VP of thought leader- ship at Chicago-based IRI. "Retailers are constantly promoting the category, especially in the first quarter of the year," notes Jana Vyleta, health and personal care analyst at Mintel, also based in Chicago. For example, at Broulim's Fresh Foods in Idaho, the entire depart- ment is promoted during the month of February. Wakefern Food Corp. is taking a more measured ap- proach to promotion. e category ranks second in HBC dollar sales at the Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer cooperative, whose members operate stores mainly under the ShopRite banner, and is likely to grab the top spot this year. Accord- ing to Chris Skyers, Wakefern's VP of corporate mer- chandising and marketing, the co-op's stores are making changes to further strengthen the department. For instance, Wakefern has partnered with Northridge, Calif.-based Pharmavite on a customized program to educate ShopRite nutritionists. e co-op is also increasing the VMS set by 5 feet this year and will expand its selection of natural vitamins to keep margins strong. "We'll lead off the natural section with Sundown, since it's a lower-price brand that can bring consumers over to the category," explains Skyers, "but we're not going to be deep discounting in the category." Skyers is passionate about balancing promotion with on-trend healthy margin products. "We never want to rest on half-price," he says. "You have to resist the temp- tation to put multiple brands on sale, since that can be a slippery slope to death for the category. We've forced ourselves to promote only one brand and private label a week, and we balance that by following trends. "We'll bring in gummies or specific products that are on-trend, such as PreserVision Eye Vitamins," he adds. Bausch + Lomb's PreserVision, which retails for $31.99, is the top-turning item in the department, with 150 to 200 pieces sold a week. "We never want to run out of Preser- Vision," says Skyers. While he's careful to protect the core of the depart- ment, experimentation with new products and keeping tuned to consumer trends are important in keeping the category profitable, Skyers stresses. For instance, the chain recently added essential oils to its mix. Innovative Items Kent Shepard, buyer at Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim's, recently added the Nature's Truth's line of essential oils to his VMS set. "We brought in oils for immune health and joint relief," he says. "Diffusers are also doing well." Retailers willing to hop on new trends have the stron- gest category performance. "Adding ancillary categories gives consumers another option for treatment, and retailers a great opportunity to cross-merchandise and cross-pro- mote," notes Viamari. March 2017 | | 83

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