By M. Brad Slavin
The time for retailers, home medical equipment and durable medical equipment (HME/ DME) dealers and distributors to take advantage of the growing incontinence product market is now. The recent increase of incontinence in the general and geriatric population is allowing this market segment to benefit from more efficient marketing and sales efforts, growth of current product offerings and the introduction of new items, such as reusables. It is important for accounts to get behind emerging incontinence products early to maximize sales and profit opportunities.
Cotton Inc. in a recent survey estimated there may be as many as 115 million incontinent people in the United States alone. That’s a far greater number than the 30 million — mostly elderly chronic sufferers — usually quoted. Women are believed to make up 70% to 80% of the market. But men are a fast-growing part of the market as they realize there is a way to remain active even with this condition.
In fact, incontinence is the one area in hygiene that is considered a worldwide growth market, according to Karen McIntyre, editor of nonwovenindustry. com. “Adult incontinence has plenty of room to grow in places like the United States where active seniors and even younger sufferers will pay top dollar for products that are effective,” she said.
Consumers want products that will allow them to enjoy an active lifestyle and at the same time be discrete about their condition. According to Janet O’Rourke of Cotton Inc., customers spend $50 to $100 per month to address the problem. That is significant and growing retail volume. Another extremely important note is that aging baby boomers are maintaining an active lifestyle well into their 70s and will seek quality products that do not hinder their social or recreational activities.
Reusable incontinence products provide a solution that is highly effective, practically invisible and economical. Their potential market is significant, but they are relatively new and just starting to have a visible presence at retail.
To generate trial and repeat purchase, retailers should make available discrete ways to get information about incontinence, whether in stores or via a website or toll-free phone number. They should ask for co-op dollars from distributors or manufacturers to support customer outreach and marketing. They should have sampling programs that reduce the risk of trying a new product form. Manufacturers’ pamphlets or other materials with the chain’s contact on a label should be available at the point of purchase or other visible location.
Consumers should be educated about advantages and benefits including savings; lifestyle enhancement through more activity and normal living; environmental friendliness; comfort, dignity and peace of mind; and convenience and ease of cleaning. Retailers should give the incontinence category ongoing support with regular features in flyers and displays as well as an in-store “section.” Incontinence products should be featured in multiple locations, such as near feminine protection items, which may draw the same consumer.
The incontinence category is rapidly growing and is expected to do so for the next decade. Disposable incontinence products will continue to enjoy the greatest market share; however reusable products are gaining momentum and offer an excellent growth opportunity. M. Brad Slavin is director of sales and brand manger for CareActive, a division of Care Apparel Industries Inc., which manufactures and markets reusable incontinence products.
M. Brad Slavin is director of sales and brand manger for CareActive, a division of Care Apparel Industries Inc., which manufactures and markets reusable incontinence products.
By M. Brad Slavin
The landscape for HME/DME providers is shifting, with major changes in the health care industry and a spike in the aging population creating new retail opportunities all the time. Navigating the postcompetitive bidding era, along with identifying new areas to maximize profits, are top priorities for HME/DME providers. When looking to maximize profits, focusing on an area in which millions of Americans suffer is a guaranteed smart place to begin. And because the number of people suffering incontinence is so high, the need is not going anywhere.
Just How large is the demand?
In the U.S., the condition of incontinence is more common than asthma or diabetes (Brigham and Women's Hospital Report). The World Continence Week Final Report for 2012 estimated the overall number of sufferers is in excess of 33 million and growing. Northshore University Health System Chicago reported that up to half of all nursing home and long-term care facility residents are incontinent. That fact alone drives home the enormous opportunity that awaits providers who are prepared to meet the demand from institutional customers and caregivers.
According to Dr. Jill Rabin, author of “Mind Over Bladder,” the number affected by this condition increases with age. Typically women manage a much larger portion of their lives dealing with it. Incontinence has been reported in more than 50 percent of women living in nursing homes, and 15 to 40 percent over the age of 60 have reported incontinence while still living at home. Among people age 60 and older, women are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to suffer from urinary incontinence than men.
In addition to causing discomfort, frustration and embarrassment, the condition can prove dangerous and pricey if unattended, as pointed out by D.H. Thom in Age and Ageing, “Incontinence is expensive both to individuals in the form of bladder control products and to the health care system and nursing home industries. Injury related to incontinence is a leading cause of admission to assisted living and nursing care facilities. More than half of nursing facility admissions are related to incontinence.”
Why is the problem growing?
A rapidly aging U.S. population is causing incidences of incontinence to spike, in turn making it a major priority for the health care industry. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that persons over 65 years of age represent 12.9 percent of the population, averaging about one in every eight Americans.
By 2030, there will be approximately 72.1 million seniors—more than twice the number recorded in 2000. This is because the average life expectancy has risen from 47 years in 1900, to 78 years today, and is projected to be 84.5 years by 2050.
Aging Baby Boomers continue to maintain an active lifestyle well into their seventies, and they are seeking quality products that do not hinder social or recreational activities. Discretion and avoidance of the stigma associated with incontinence drive widespread usage of incontinence products. With the number of aging Baby Boomers increasing daily, the market for incontinence products is sure to continue its growth.
Where is your opportunity?
Walking down the incontinence protection aisle of your local drugstore or pharmacy, you will notice whole sections devoted to this product category. Proliferation at large retail chains is a sure sign that this well-established market is flourishing. Of the two main product subsections— disposable and reusable—the disposable option is the biggest seller, followed by the developing demand for more economical and environmentally sound reusable protection products. And this is exactly where the market is underserved.
The growth of the incontinence category will not slow down over the next decade, and it no longer carries the same stigmas, as evidenced by national ad campaigns in television and print media. It is time for HME/DME dealers, retailers and distributors to capitalize on this opportunity, and to recognize reusable incontinence products for the value and active lifestyle alternatives they offer.
Reusable products enable an incontinent person to maintain a normal routine with confidence, as the nature of these products is less obtrusive (visibly and physically) and more user-friendly. Day-to-day activities can continue without embarrassment or discomfort; for instance, product lines featuring washable cotton briefs for men and panties for women are now available, as are unisex liners that provide full protection and can be worn under everyday clothing. The category also includes mattress pads, chair pads and mattress covers.
This newest form of incontinence products are a more economical means of long-term protection because of the ability to wash and reuse. There is no negative environmental impact, as products are long-lasting and durable and reduce the large amount of disposable products that regularly make their way to landfills.
Anticipated market progression plus the need for a more affordable, user-friendly and environmentally gentle incontinence management product presents a compound opportunity in retail and the HME/DME industry.
As the market shifts away from disposable products, more retail space is necessary to accommodate this trend. Companies offering products for incontinence are well-poised to help retailers and the HME/DME industry optimize the market opportunity today and in the future.
CareActive, a division of Care Apparel Industries, Inc., introduced a full line of reusable incontinence products recently at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores show in August 2013, and also works with more traditional retailers, HME/DME suppliers and distributors with the overall goal of giving the consumer an alternative to disposables.
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So easy to use that the subject can test himself
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