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Education key to growing sun care sales

Education key to growing sun care sales

Barbara White-Sax

Sun care products are only effective when consumers use them properly–or use them at all, for that matter. One surefire way to heat up sun care sales is to ensure that everyone who needs sunblock uses it, which, by definition, includes anyone who is going to be exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, according to health experts. Education is a critical component of the sun care category–industry data show that only 45 percent of consumers use sun care products.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Sun Safety Alliance would like to see that number double. “Skin cancer is the fastest-growing form of cancer in America,” said Phil Schneider, NACDS Sun Safety Alliance executive director.

The alliance’s newest program is Mothers Against Skin Cancer, an initiative aimed at recruiting 1 million moms to provide sun safety information to their schools and communities. The program, sponsored jointly by NACDS and Coppertone, will target prominent women in the arts, media and politics to spread the word. A major political figure is expected to sign on as the program’s spokesperson; however, no further details were available at press time.

Manufacturers have been doing their best to provide consumers with the information they need to protect their skin. Coppertone’s 2004 advertising campaign “Every Day is a Sun Day” focused more on giving consumers information than on selling products. Banana Boat provided a chart on its displays to help consumers determine their SPF needs.

Sales in the sun care category could benefit from a little consumer outreach. It’s really too early to tell how the category fared for summer 2004. “We expect to see growth at about 5 percent, but bad weather has a large effect on the category,” said Jennifer Engler, a Hawaiian Tropic spokeswoman.

The category has made a bit of a comeback in the drug channel, led by 14 percent sales growth. Sales of sunblock and sunscreen products topped $145 million in drug stores for the 52 weeks ended June 12, according to ACNielsen data. The category, which includes sunless tanning products, is now double the size of the serious tanning segment, which covers oils and lotions that are generally low in SPF. Tanning oils and lotions sales grew 4 percent during the period, reaching more than $69 million in drug stores. Both segments rebounded significantly from tough results in 2003. During the same time last year, sunscreen sales were down 3 percent, and tanning oils/lotions were down almost 11 percent.

Clearly, the big story right now continues to be sunless tanning products, and two of the most successful launches this past season were Neutrogena’s Build-a-Tan and Coppertone’s Endless Summer Ultrasheer. L’Oreal also had a strong first entry into the sunless category with Sublime Bronze.

Neutrogena’s Build-a-Tan enticed new users to the sunless category with products that contain a very low level of self tanner, so first-time sunless users can deepen their skin color gradually.

On the sunscreen/sunblock side of the business, Neutrogena’s new Ultrasheer products, which contain an antioxidant complex to reduce free radicals, offered consumers a way to fight wrinkles and a lighter-weight formulation. Lightweight application also was a selling point for Neutrogena’s Active Breathable Sunblock. “The product allows skin to breathe while the consumer is active,” said a Neutrogena spokesperson.

Kyle Lentz, a health and beauty aids industry analyst with Hamacher Resource Group, said products with breathable high SPF protection, long-term water resistance and no-run, non-greasy applications will drive category growth by offering improvements consumers want.

As for the kids–a key target of the Mothers Against Skin Cancer campaign–children’s sun care products had a flat year. For kids, it’s all about protection, not fashion, so there is no sunless windfall to bail out that side of the business. When mom buys sun care for the kids, she tends to think two things: the higher the SPF, the better, and the more fun the product is to use, the better chance there is to get junior to reapply more frequently.

“There was really no big launch like colored formulations or sprays, so it wasn’t a great year for kids’ products,” said a Coppertone spokesperson. The growth in the segment will come from products with an SPF of 45 and higher. Those products were “by far the fastest-growing SPF range in kids and were up 69 percent,” Hawaiian Tropic’s Engler said.

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