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Nonfoods Talk: Scratching the Itch

Affordably-priced OTC lice medications are remedies no grocer should be without.


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My sons used to go to summer camp. One summer, a few years back, they came home happy as clams to be in their own surroundings again, eager to enjoy a few more weeks of summer before the start of school. 

They brought with them a number of mementos of the long summer away: A baseball signed by fellow campers, some art work and pictures of them having a blast during the seven weeks they spent roaming the playgrounds of upstate New York… and head lice.

Unfortunately, head lice is a growing issue with children, who usually think nothing of sharing hair brushes and combs with their friends or getting so up close and personal with each other that lice are able to easily move from one head to another. It is just about a parent’s worst nightmare when they get the phone call from a school nurse or doctor that their kids are infected with those pesky critters. I know; I lived it. 

But a parent’s anguish turns into a retailer’s happiness when it comes to lice and other little insects that somehow find their ways onto the bodies of their children or into the furniture of their homes. When lice are found parents are in a tizzy about getting rid of them, quickly and, much more importantly, permanently. 

As an article in the New York Post in October discussed, there is a growing demand for professional head lice removers. These are people who come to your house, place some sort of oil in the hair of the affected person and spend about an hour picking out—one by one—the nits that called these heads home. By the way, these people get at least $50, and up to $100, an hour to provide this much-needed service. Salons are getting more than $250 to provide the same services. 

Of course these high prices are a potential boon for grocery retailers. There are a growing number of more affordably-priced medications at retail that also provide relief. Companies such as Fairy Tales Hair Care, based in Clifton, N.J., and Licenders offer solutions to lice that are easy to use, natural and, most importantly, fresh smelling to consumers. That is a big change from the items that used to populate retail shelves, especially in terms of the smell, which many said was similar to an exterminator’s poison. 

Carrying these over-the-counter items, especially during the summer and early fall, should be a given for any supermarket retailer. But more needs to be done as well. Placement should  be near the pharmacy counter, if possible, to both catch consumers’ attention and to allow them to ask a pharmacist any pertinent questions about the treatment. Retailers must also consider offering any educational tools that will make it easier for consumers to decide what product is right for them.  

In the end, lice are definitely something everyone wants to avoid. But these nasty nits are not going away and it makes total sense for grocery retailers to get more involved with the small, but growing, category. 

 

What ever happened to baseball cards at supermarkets? About 20 years ago, trading cards were all the rage at retailers around the country. Companies such as Topps and Upper Deck, among the 20 or 30 firms that produced cards, raised the prices of cards by 100 percent or more. Consumers eagerly bought them—for a while. Soon, the fad died out and now just a few card companies have survived. 

Today, cards are more likely to be found at a specialty store than a supermarket. But for a few years there, grocery stores made a lot of money from those small pieces of hard paper.      

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