HEALTH

New Year’s resolutions contribute to increased spending on diet, anti-smoking aids

BY Michael Johnsen

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. More than $100 million will be spent on New Year’s resolutions in January, according to a report issued by the Nielsen Co. on Tuesday. According to the company, U.S. consumers are expected to purchase more than $61 million in anti-smoking and smoking alternative products and more than $46 million in nutritional diet aids in January.

“As New Year’s Eve marks the end of the holiday party season, shoppers take their resolutions straight to the stores,” stated Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer and shopping insights, Nielsen Consumer Panel Services.

“While supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers are packed with holiday shoppers in December, our data shows that there’s no rest for the retailers in January,” Hale said. “Manufacturers of anti-smoking products and nutritional diet aids should brace themselves for a banner month.”

Anti-smoking and smoking alternative products generated 8.7 percent of annual dollar sales in January last year, an above average share, while complete nutritional diet aids generated 9.9 percent of their annual dollar sales during the same period. In both product categories, January ranks No. 1 in annual dollar sales for the entire year, with sales of nutritional diet aids expected to jump more than 91 percent compared to the previous 4 week period.

The week of January 13 shows the highest dollar sales ranking for the month in both categories, suggesting that shoppers give themselves a few extra days before getting serious with their resolutions. 

However, those resolutions are short lived, as sales of both smoking cessation products and diet aids curtail sharply by the end of the month. Anti-smoking products declined steadily from more than $61 million in sales in January 2007 to $49 million in September 2007. And after a high at nearly $47 million in January 2007, sales of nutritional diet aids dropped more than 14 percent to $40 million in February 2007. 

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NPA highlights difference between steroids and dietary supplements

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON While the sporting nation debates whether the records of accused steroid users Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens should receive an asterisk, the Natural Products Association on Friday looked to apply an asterisk of their own.

Steroids and dietary supplements are mutually exclusive, the association stated. “The idea that athletes were unwittingly ingesting steroids in the dietary supplements they innocently purchased at a health food store has been exposed as the ridiculous notion it always was,” the association noted. “The fact that the performance-enhancing substances purchased in the report needed to be obtained surreptitiously by a third party, typically at a high cost, should have been evidence enough to an athlete that the product was likely to be illegal. Clearly, calling such products ‘dietary supplements’ was an attempt to gain legitimacy and mask their real contents.”

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Year-end sees increased FSA traffic at drugstore.com

BY Michael Johnsen

BELLEVUE, Wash. Drugstore.com on Monday announced that traffic to its online Flexible Spending Account Store is increasing significantly as the end of the year approaches.

“Internet retail is uniquely suited to service FSA Account holders because our online store can carry a much wider selection of eligible items compared to brick-and-mortar stores that are limited by shelf space,” stated David Lonczak, vice president and chief marketing officer, drugstore.com. “Our customers also appreciate the fact that we do the FSA accounting for them, making reimbursements or FSA debit cards a snap as they shop on our site throughout the year or right now when they need to use their FSA dollars or lose them.”

According to drugstore.com, there are an estimated 24 million pre-tax healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts in the United States. Any money left in FSAs at the end of the plan year can’t be rolled over or refunded. So for many FSA account holders it’s “use it or lose it” time.

To promote end-of-year FSA blowouts, this year drugstore.com created bundled recommendations of FSA-eligible items that range in cost from $50 to $75, including:

  • general first aid supplies
  • athlete/outdoorsman supplies
  • baby care essentials
  • suggestions for “Dr. Mom”
  • and medicine cabinet basics

Drugstore.com’s list of most-bought FSA-eligible items include, in ranked order, Prilosec OTC, Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor Test Sticks, ibuprofen. 200 mg, Band-Aid Sheer, Sheer Adhesive Bandages and Sight Savers Pre-Moistened Lens Cleaning Tissues.

Drugstore.com makes it easier for consumers looking to empty their FSA accounts before year’s end by putting more than 3,000 FSA-approved items in one location online. Drugstore.com also provides FSA-only receipts through the web store that customers may choose to print out at any time of the year to turn in for reimbursement.

The online retailer has also set up a payment program that debits an FSA debit card for FSA eligible purchases and prompts for a second form of payment if a non-FSA eligible item is added to the virtual shopping basket.

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