What Women Want from Incontinence Retailers
Women's needs bring new opportunities
by Ken Edmunds

The numbers: 15 million adult women in the United States and growing rapidly. The geography: every state, every city and every town in the country.

Even though stress incontinence affects so much of the adult female population, most women suffer in silence. In fact, of the 25 million American people currently living with incontinence, more than 75 percent of them are women. Further, more than 80 percent of women living with incontinence are experiencing stress incontinence.

Why Women’s Needs Bring New Opportunities

The bladder control pad is going to dominate the U.S. market, whether you measure success by volume or margin.

Due to the negative stigma associated with any type of incontinence, tomorrow’s shoppers will seek out more discrete methods of purchase; this can mean big business for smaller stores with less foot traffic.

A strong array of bladder control pad sizes and performance levels will be essential to offer new customers adequate options based on their specific level of need. Independently owned retailers should promote pad options not readily available in the larger chain stores.

Women are accustomed to using pads as they begin menstruating. When they begin to experience relatively minor amounts of urine escaping with stress incontinence, a pad is usually their first choice to address the issue. In fact, most women initially choose a feminine hygiene pad designed for menstruation to try and keep their stress incontinence under the radar.

The bladder control pad is generally the first choice for the discretion it offers. These pads can easily be placed inside regular underwear and remain invisible to friends and family. They are small enough to hide in purses and resemble feminine hygiene pads closely enough to offer more camouflage for their condition.

Fortunately, the negative cultural stigma associated with incontinence in general—but most predominantly stress incontinence—is slowly starting to lessen. As the number of women affected grows, society is finally beginning to open the doors of normality to this condition in much the same way it did to menstruation during the last two decades.

We are seeing more discussion generated on the topic of incontinence, and manufacturers now strive to establish a brand identity synonymous with the condition. All of this has led to a more pronounced spotlight on stress incontinence, culminating in a proliferation of brands and celebrity endorsements. This level of incontinence, along with even more pronounced levels of incontinence, is slowly being portrayed as a common condition for contemporary and active adults, instead of just a problem for elders and seniors.

While the secret of incontinence is slowly shedding its undeserved shame, we have a ways to go before products are openly purchased like a loaf of bread.

Now is the time to point out your bladder control pad lineup to existing customers who are possibly buying their secret stashes from chain stores, as well as new customers who are not aware of your location. This starts with marketing materials in your store (either created in-house or with the help of your chosen manufacturer partners), depends on your staff to gain education and start conversations, and ultimately should include outreach to the community via advertising, social media and even partnerships with local businesses whose customers, members or residents may need these products. Shoppers will enjoy the anonymity that shopping with you offers.

About Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence typically presents in the form of only a few droplets but can also be a short stream of urine that escapes during exertion. Given this varying extent of bladder leakage, your customers will need very small and light bladder pads with increasingly more absorbent pads to address larger amounts of fluid. Your offerings should include these types of choices.

In terms of the brands you offer, choose carefully. If your staff takes the time to help customers choose the right type, but points your customer to a brand offered at every grocery store and pharmacy on the planet, eventually your customer will be shopping for food or picking up a prescription and notice their brand at a cost beneath what makes sense for you to offer the same product, or they will simply pick it up when they are shopping for milk and bread to save an additional trip to your store.

What is Urge Incontinence?

Urge incontinence (a sudden, largely uncontrollable urge to empty one’s bladder) is also a significant type of incontinence. Additionally, many times a woman’s stress incontinence is further complicated by urge incontinence—then referred to as mixed incontinence. As the extent or level of incontinence increases, women often elect to use more than one lighter pad at a time, move up to a larger pad, or simply graduate to protective underwear.

About Male Bladder Incontinence

While we have focused on women today, men also live with different forms of incontinence. Male bladder incontinence has several origins regarding cause, but one of the more prevalent explanations stems from concerns and procedures relating to the prostate. Bladder control pads are often used in these circumstances or, for more severe symptoms, protective underwear.

This article is the second in a seven-part series. Each article will focus on a particular concern of the retail incontinence marketplace. Read the full series here.