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Retail evolution bodes well for nonprescription meds

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WASHINGTON — Changes on the retail scene bode well for the consumer health care products market because they show that chains are trying to stay engaged with their customers, says Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) chairman and Clarion Brands chief executive officer Gary Downing.

Gary Downing

“From our perspective it would be more concerning if they were doing nothing,” he says. “It’s clear that they see the landscape changing and that they need to find ways to have a better grasp of their consumers and find ways that they can engage more with that individual in terms of solving healthcare needs. They’re taking the right steps. From an industry perceptive we think that we’ll all weather this very well.”

Major changes in the market are nothing new, he adds, citing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The key for CHPA is the knowledge that O-T-Cs “will continue to be the first line of health care for most Americans, despite how they might get the products or how they come into the marketplace,” says Downing.

That’s especially true with the rise of self-care, he says, noting that with consumers avoiding increasingly costly visits to increasingly hard-to-find primary care physicians, O-T-Cs are “where they turn first.”
CHPA president and CEO Scott Melville says the trend toward self-care points to consumer health care products being a growth industry. “No one is saying there’s going to be less self-care in the future. All the factors are pointing to greater self-care. So we’re very bullish, obviously, as a result, as are Wall Street and private equity. There’s a lot of interest in this sector because of the opportunity to bring products to market and show returns on investment quickly, and to meet important consumer needs.”

The pursuit of self-care also reaffirms the growing prominence of pharmacists and drug stores in maintaining health and wellness, he adds. Pharmacists play a significant role in helping consumers self-select products, and while their advice is not required, “it’s a resource that many consumers depend on, and it’s an important resource. This industry is better because of the role that the pharmacist plays in helping consumers make their ­selections.”
Another market tailwind is demographics. Downing points out that the two largest generations, baby boomers and Millennials, now have significant spending power. Boomers also are living longer, and consequently requiring more health care over longer periods of time.

Millennials, meanwhile, are the largest single generation in history. And through digital media, they have more access to knowledge about health care — including O-T-C medicines — than any generation that preceded them.
For their part, Gen Xers are a “sandwich generation,” caring for both elderly parents and young children, and looking for ways to cater to both as efficiently and economically as possible.

“So from a demographic standpoint, we feel very comfortable that self-care is here to stay,” Downing says. “From an economic standpoint we think that the pressure on insurance companies, as they impose greater cost sharing on the consumer through premium increases and higher deductibles and bigger co-pays, will lead consumers to try and solve their problems themselves first through good self-care.”
Consumers are searching for “value for their dollars,” he adds. “That is, and will continue to be, a strong driver for us.”


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