In Foot Care Products, A Tale Of Two Segments

By: Thomas A. Curry

While the common thinking holds that as Americans age, more people will seek out products to ease foot pain, the foot cares category continues to decline.

According to SymphonyIRI Group Inc., drug store sales of foot care items dipped 2.8% during the 12 weeks that ended September 4.

However, the performance of the two product areas that make up the category differed, with the larger foot care devices market slipping by less than 0.1% but the foot medication segment falling by more than 6.1%.

“On one hand it’s the economy,” Altema LLC president and chief executive officer Steve Cagle says. “However, if your product is effective and you are supporting your brand with advertising, it should sell.”


Some of the Blame for Foot Care’s Doldrums

In some cases, suppliers note, retailers share some of the blame for foot care’s doldrums.

For example, Cagle says he feels that retailers do not review or make changes to the category as often as they should.

“Foot care is often overlooked or not a priority and, as such, the retailer may be left with a less than optimal assortment,” he says.

Despite the minimal decline in device sales, retailers and suppliers stress that the segment remains the category’s driving force, accounting for 56.5% of $87.8 million in drug store sales during the period and 59.5% of the units moved through the trade class during that time.

About half of all devices, sales come from insoles, with specialty inserts; corn, callus and toe products; and implements making up the rest of the segment.

Suppliers and retailers say that despite the recent downturn in sales, foot care devices are likely to enjoy a rosy future.

“With the launch of new, innovative products in the category, the long-term outlook for foot care sales in drug stores will improve,” ProFoot Inc. vice president of sales John Vayianos says. “Retailers reacting to new, innovative product launches prior to a planogram rollout will help the category–definitely in the short term.”

The Category’s Advantage

Foot care suppliers note that demographics are likely to work to the category’s advantage.

In addition, many will develop a condition known as plantar fasciitis that affects a muscle in the foot that over time can relax, tighten and cause severe pain when pressure is put on it either through walking or standing.

Podiatrists note that plantar fasciitis can be prevented and treated with the over-the-counter arch support inserts found on drug store shelves.

And while the improvements that suppliers have made to the inserts they offer have helped keep the category from being severely impacted by the economic downturn, those in the category admit that the past few years have been a struggle.

ProFoot vice president of marketing Dan Feldman, for instance, noted earlier this year that his company’s pricing has helped it stay ahead of many of its competitors.

“Items priced over $10 are probably affected more,” he remarked.

“In foot care, the price differential between private label and brand isn’t that significant.

So quality is the determining issue.”

See more:

Laws’ Focus On Pain Relief Spurs Medical Enterprise

It’s Two Steps Forward, One Step Back In Retailer, Vendor Dance

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