Climate, DTC advertising boost sinus, allergy sales

Climate, DTC advertising boost sinus, allergy sales

Kim Roller

Sinus remedies made a strong comeback in 1999 after five years of flat or declining sales. Dollar volume was up 11.7 percent in the drug channel, with sales for the first time topping $100 million and hitting $109.2 million. In food, drug and mass combined, sales were up 9 percent to just under $300 million for the year.

Retailers from disparate areas of the country cited unexpected weather conditions, with record-high pollen and ragweed counts, as one obvious driver of the sales surge. The gains were compounded by an allergy season that extended further into fall than what experts normally predict.

One OTC buyer for a regional chain in the Northeast noted that even the 11.7 gain in the category for the year seemed low to him. “I know from our internal numbers that we were above that. It was driven somewhat by new products, but I think it was related more specifically to the weather conditions,” the buyer said.

Equally significant in driving sales, according to many buyers, was the inevitable impact of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription allergy products. Claritin, the highest-spending DTC brand in 1999, exceeded its own reputation for promotion and topped the $260 million mark in television and print ad spending for the year.

“I think that there is just an awareness out there about allergy in general, based at least partly on the prescription launches, that wasn’t there before,” said another buyer from a discount chain. “You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing Claritin. But I also think within stores there was more allergy promotion–in circulars, off-shelf displays [and] more in-stocks on top brands. When you walked through stores during peak-selling season, there was more emphasis on that particular category than there had been in the past.”

There also is no mistaking the trend toward self-medicating among allergy sufferers. In a recent survey of allergy patients conducted by American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, 68 percent of respondents cited advertisements as their No. 1 source of information on allergy treatments. When asked to name specific allergy remedies, nearly 30 percent named specific OTC medications, while 14 percent named prescription medications.

The ACAAI also published a study last year that suggested allergies currently affect about 38 percent of all Americans, while 56 percent of Americans live in a household in which at least one member has allergies. The number of people affected surprised even allergy experts, who had estimated the incidence of allergies was closer to 20 percent of the population.

“I just think there are a lot more chronic users out there now, than there ever have been, with people from all ages, from very young to very old,” said a buyer from a large chain. “I think it’s becoming a category that, as retailers, we really need to look at and see if we have what the patient is looking for.”

Sinus remedies see dollar sales growth [*]

1999 1998 1997

Sales in millions $299.6 $274.7 $273.8

% change 9% 0.3% -0.6%

Sales in drug stores $109.2 $97.8 $96.6

% change 12% 1% -3%

(*.)All channels

Source: ACNielsen

Unit sales reflect sinus rebound [*]

1999 1998 1997

Sales in millions 66.0 61.9 62.9

% change 7% -2% -0.1%

Sales in drug stores 21.0 19.3 19.4

% change 9% -0.3% -2%

(*.)All channels

Source: ACNielsen

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