For some consumers, personal care shopping means grabbing the cheapest bottles of natural shampoo, conditioner and shower gel off the shelf every few months. But others load up on indulgences often, filling their carts with an array of creams, lotions and potions.
About 20 percent of naturals shoppers fall into the latter category, spending about $100 or more a month on personal care, according to The Natural Foods Merchandiser's consumer research.
These heavy personal care users, or "high-care" consumers, don't fit neatly into any demographic, but there are some shopping habits they have in common.
Men like PC too
Women traditionally outspend men on personal care, but it's important to remember that men can be high-care consumers as well. NFM's research found that men are plenty capable of loading their carts with high-dollar beauty products.
"I think that more men would buy personal care products if they were available. I like to use personal care products, but not my wife's perfume-scented ones," says Darrin Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing in Nederland, Colo., and a professor of marketing at Metropolitan State College of Denver.
Ethnic groups big buyers of PC
Although the stereotype of the naturals consumer who buys lots of personal care items is often a white woman, this should be reconsidered. According to the NFM research, a much greater percentage of Asians are high-care than Caucasians. "Asians are very highly educated, and research shows that naturals shoppers tend to be highly educated," Duber-Smith says.
Also, Asians, Hispanics and blacks tend to place more emphasis on beauty regimes than whites, says Virginia Lee, senior research analyst with Euromonitor International in Chicago. "The Japanese are very fanatical with skin care; they make up 2 percent of the [global] population, but are 9 percent of global sales for facial anti-agers and skin nourishers."
Given these statistics, should naturals retailers gear merchandising and advertising to these ethnic groups? Not necessarily, experts say.
"You don't want to pigeonhole people by race. You want to look at their attitudes and beliefs psychographics and then see how these relate to demographics like race, children and education level," Duber-Smith says. "This is going to tell you more than their simply checking a[n] [ethnicity] box."
Lee agrees that selling to a particular race is not necessarily a good idea. "It's so regionally specific, it's difficult to know in which stores it makes sense," she says. She points to a recent Cover Girl campaign to sell a Queen Latifah beauty line in 10 cities with high black populations. It didn't take long for products to be pulled from shelves due to lagging sales. "If it's hard to do well in the general market, it's hard to do in health food stores," she says.
Educated staff sells
The NFM research also discovered that high-care consumers are almost twice as likely to believe that helpful and knowÂledgeable staff is extremely important to their decision on where to purchase personal care products.
"Having both educated and passionate employees is vital to high-care consumer sales," Duber-Smith says. "These customers are getting really into reading ingredient labels and will have more questions than others, and if store employees give glib answers, it reduces credibility. [They will wonder]: Why am I paying this price when I can go to Walgreens?"
"Many of these customers have built trust in their natural products stores over the years, and rely on employees to educate them about ingredients and why natural is better," Lee says. So if you can't have a dedicated staff member in the PC section, "have a bell on a counter that someone can ring anytime to get knowledgeable help," she says.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 5/p. 34