High-tech products and high-profile advertising campaigns have generated some excitement, but many retailers and manufacturers believe the foot care category is not living up to its true potential.
The challenge is that while an estimated 75% of Americans experience foot problems at some point in their lives, only a much smaller percentage are seeking treatment for those ailments. According to podiatrists, in fact, many people simply accept foot discomfort or even pain as a normal part of life.
More People with Foot Problems
Converting more people with foot problems into foot care customers would definitely give the category a major boost, and the opportunity would only increase as millions of baby boomers head into their senior years.
Some manufacturers are using advertising campaigns to raise consumer awareness. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. kicked off a four-month national educational campaign in April aimed at promoting overall foot health, including the treatment of nail fungus infections. The company’s extensive advertising of its Lamisil Tablets, which treat nail fungus, has been credited with focusing attention on toenail problems. Some suppliers of over-the-counter products associated with nail health and toenail appearance say they have benefited from the increased consumer interest.
Are You Gellin?
Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Inc., meanwhile, has driven some consumers to the foot care departments of their local mass retail stores with its national “Are You Gellin?” campaign for Dr. Scholl’s Massaging Gel Insoles.
Profoot Inc. vice president Dan Feldman says that what the foot care category needs is innovative products that really work. Too much of the recent product activity in the category has involved me-too products, line extensions and line revamps, he says, which has the effect of shifting sales around within the category without generating any real growth.
He adds that there is plenty of room for creativity in the foot care set.
“Customers are getting more sophisticated,” he observes. “And they’re interested in products beyond traditional foot care items. They’re open to newer and more innovative products for their skin, feet, nails and toes.”
For its part, Profoot has had “phenomenal success” with its Heel Rescue Cream. Feldman says that building on that success will be one of the company’s aims.
“We have several innovative items coming for 2006,” Feldman notes, adding that Proudfoot’s other priority as a manufacturer is to deliver efficacy. Some products in the category generate initial excitement and sales but end up disappointing consumers, he says, and that is bad for retailers and manufacturers alike.
“The last thing that we as foot care vendors want to do is put products out there that don’t do what they promise. There are so few customers in the foot care business–household penetration is very low–that our obligation is to deliver good products that do what they promise to do, and that surprise customer in a positive way and give them a reason to come back to the set.”
Implus Footcare LLC also sees innovation as the key to bringing excitement to the foot care category, according to executive vice president of sales Steve Head.
Recognizing, for example, that women are more prone to suffer from foot problems than men, Implus has devoted a great deal of attention to developing products and packaging that appeal to female consumers.
Another trend in the foot care category involves the growth of private label. According to Information Resources Inc., private label products collectively rank as the No. 2 brand in foot care devices (behind Dr. Scholl’s) and in athlete’s foot medications (behind Novartis’ LamisilAT).