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Sunscreen Sales Have Room to Grow

February 15, 2010

Just one in five Americans wear UV protection.

Spring is just around the corner, which means the countdown to Summer has begun. For sun care marketers, the all-important Summer season gets in full swing in late May.

Yet, despite industry efforts to warn about the dangers of too much sun, just one American household in five (20.0%) uses sunscreens or sun blocks to help guard against cancer, according to Nielsen Homescan Consumer Facts data for the 52 weeks ended June 27, 2009. Another 3.2% use lotions or oils; merely 0.5% use sunburn aids. According to Nielsen, these are all valuable customers: the average dollar amount spent per trip in this category approaches $10 ($9.24 for sunscreens/sun blocks; $8.49 for lotions/oils; $6.26 for sunburn aids).

Dollar sales of all category segments—sunscreens and sun blocks, lotions and oils, and sunburn aids—slowed tremendously in calendar 2009. Most industry observers blame the economy, not the weather. They cite widespread abandonment of leisure travel in a bad economy; a perception that when money is tight, sun care purchases could be skipped in favor of necessities such as food and medicine; and perhaps less free time spent on outdoor activities, as people decide to spend less and do more at home.

Total sun care sales rose a scant 0.3% to $798.0 million in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) during the 52 weeks ended December 26, 2009, reported Nielsen. These are sales of OTC, prepackaged, UPC-coded products only, and do not include any cosmetics products that contain sun protection factors (SPF). Worse yet, on an equivalized unit volume basis, product movement slipped by 2.5% to 620,151,610 units (ounce basis) in the same period.

This followed a successful 2008, in which sun care grew by 7.1% to $795.3 million on a 1.0% EUV increase, the data showed. The good news is, that like most sectors of the economy, things began to improve in the second half of 2009.
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