by Chris Lee

As the reimbursement market continues to become more challenging, it is important to diversify your payer mix and increase cash sales. Incontinence products are often a driver to shop, meaning the consumer will make a trip exclusively to buy new pads, underwear or briefs. By bringing in a full line of incontinence products, you are opening up your business to the opportunity of providing service to these shoppers. Not only are they coming in for incontinence products, but they are also coming in as cash sales. Oftentimes customers are confused as to what product or size is correct for their needs. The consumer is embarrassed, stressed and does not want to ask for advice or help, and many are afraid to bring up incontinence issues with their doctors or pharmacists. If you were to visit an incontinence aisle right now, you would probably see a wide range of absorbencies, sizes, package counts and colors. This adds to the confusion and forces consumers to try different products and brands before they find the one that fits their needs. Many of the brands have high counts in their packages; this raises the cost of the product and makes shopping for them discreetly a challenge. Due to the significant cost, users feel the need to use the entire product even though it might not perform to their satisfaction. By choosing a product line with lower counts, you open the door for people to try different products without a large expense. This also requires the user to make frequent trips to your store to replenish their supplies. Larger retail stores typically do not have anyone who can help answer questions, causing shoppers to become confused and frustrated and adding to the already-present stress. Find a brand that helps to educate consumers through effective shelf displays that allow consumers to see product sizes, which can help them self-diagnose their incontinence needs. In addition, find a product line that offers a comprehensive assortment of products that take up a smaller retail footprint. This allows you to offer all the products that someone may find at a larger store, while merchandising them in a more efficient manner. You can also eliminate some confusion by separating the incontinence section from the feminine hygiene area. The products and bags can look the same to consumers; however, the way these products absorb and function are different. Many women first try to cope with their incontinence by purchasing menstrual pads. These pads perform differently from bladder control pads due to the fluids they are meant to absorb. Bladder control pads are designed to rapidly absorb and disperse urine into the core. The pads are developed to lock in urine to keep the skin dry and comfortable. The materials used in the core of these pads are also designed to minimize or combat odor. Another major difference between the two is the leak protection technologies. Most bladder control pads should have a protective leak guard built into their structure. These leak guards trap and target urine to ensure proper absorption. When evaluating your current incontinence section, there are a few other factors to consider. If you are located in an area with a high percentage of population above the age of 60, consider expanding your incontinence section to ensure you have all the products this demographic is looking for. It is not unusual to see smaller stores get a noticeable bump in sales by increasing their incontinence section to 8 or even 16 feet. If your store is located near medical specialists who perform procedures that often result in incontinence, consider adding additional products. For example, if you’re located near a urology clinic, add a few additional items related to male incontinence. Men are typically more confused than women when it comes to purchasing incontinence products because this is their first experience using absorbent pads. Separate the men’s products from the women’s to make them more comfortable with their purchases. Another factor to consider is bringing in a product line that is not available in many other stores. Users tend to stick with a product or brand once they find a product that is best for their needs. This will build repeat cash business and get customers in your door. If you carry a brand that is also on the shelf at large retailers, you will lose customers to these stores when they run sales and promotions. By having these brands in your store, you begin a race to the bottom when it comes to price and profit margins. No one wins in that scenario. Lastly, take the time to learn about your products and the incontinence category as a whole. If customers can come to you as a source of knowledge, they will feel more comfortable buying products from you. The incontinence category is growing rapidly; new products and technologies are being developed each year. Make sure you are able to effectively educate your customers on these technologies. Products are getting thinner and more discreet, yet maintaining a high level of absorbency and comfort. Educate yourself about your current incontinence customers’ purchases. Ask them for feedback and provide recommendations. Our research shows that customers often over-prescribe themselves when it comes to incontinence, because of the embarrassment of a leak or accident. By identifying the right product for your customer, you may be able to improve their quality of life. Many incontinence sufferers have other comorbidities that require additional health-related products. This allows you to cross-sell other items. If you are looking to increase your cash business, do not overlook the incontinence section.