The media portray diabetes as an epidemic. Is that far-fetched? Not according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates one in three Americans could have the disease by 2050.


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Does your diabetes care section measure up?

November 21st, 2011
by Jennifer Johnston

The media portray diabetes as an epidemic. Is that far-fetched? Not according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates one in three Americans could have the disease by 2050.

Think about that number for a moment — that could be one out of every three shoppers in your store. Today the number of U.S. citizens living with diabetes is close to 26 million, with an estimated 79 million living with prediabetes. These are astonishing numbers.

Is your business adequately catering to their needs? If not, it should be. After all, the shopper with diabetes is worth eight times as much as the typical shopper for over-the-counter products, spending $2,200 more a year on retail pharmacy purchases.

Why do these shoppers spend so much more? The reason is because diabetes is not an acute or passive condition. This chronic condition requires patient commitment to the self-management of the disease, including daily self-testing of blood glucose, insulin injections, sugar regulation, and modifications in diet and lifestyle. Therefore, many prescription and ­O-T-C products are needed for ongoing treatment.

Data from research firm SymphonyIRI Group Inc. shows that home health care kits, of which diabetes-related products are a main component, produced over $450 million dollars in sales in food, drug and mass outlets (excluding Walmart) during the 52 weeks ended May 15. Eighty-four percent of those sales took place in drug stores. The numbers include such items as glucose tablets, lancets, and urine and other testing kits.

However, there are hundreds of other products that also meet the needs of the diabetes consumer, including cross-over items from categories such as skin care, pain relief, cold and allergy, foot care, and even digestive health. Are your customers aware of these products and their benefits? Is your staff actively engaging diabetes shoppers?

Some individuals are reluctant to bring up their questions or concerns with their pharmacist or other staff members. All it takes to strike up a conversation about health options and create add-on sales opportunities is an inquisitive pharmacist asking the question, “Do you need a refresher on checking your blood sugar levels?”

If a one-on-one approach seems too time consuming, invite patients to in-store events that feature expert advice, health screenings, product demonstrations, coupons and healthy snacks. These events could be ongoing throughout the year and not limited to November during National Diabetes Awareness Month. Prediabetes should also be addressed in your retail setting. Encouraging and promoting healthy eating, exercise and overall health management every day will help the at-risk population while showcasing your business as an epicenter for health and wellness.

And remember not to refer to your diabetes shoppers as “diabetics.” This is an outdated term. A diabetes shopper does not want to be labeled as the disease but as someone living with and managing the disease. Try using the phrases “diabetes patient” or “person living with diabetes.” While it may seem like a subtle difference, this kind of inclusive language highlights your business as a partner in diabetes ­self-management.

With more young people developing diabetes, technology is playing a greater role in the category than ever before. Smartphones are equipped with diabetes monitoring functions, meters are smaller, and testing requires less blood or no blood at all — some test kits even measure glucose through tear ducts. Personalization is becoming important as well. Glucose monitor cases can be customized with colorful skins, just like cell phones. Diabetes patients may now inject insulin through the use of slick-looking, customizable pens.

Does your diabetes care section measure up, or is it still geared to an aging population that does not embrace the condition? Today’s diabetes shopper is more self-sufficient than ever. Is your business still housing some products behind your pharmacy counter? From a merchandising standpoint, diabetes meters and strips belong in the front end. Limiting patient access can limit sales ­opportunities.

There are many ways to improve the experience of diabetes care shoppers in your store, and it’s important to take steps in that direction before a third of the population — and a third of your shoppers — is living with diabetes.

Jennifer Johnston is a writer and researcher with Hamacher Resource Group Inc., a retail health care research and marketing company.

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