Zika virus scare sends repellent sales soaring
Barraged by news reports about the impact of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, consumers have been purchasing bug sprays and insect repellents in record numbers.
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According to the data analysis firm 1010data, online sales of mosquito repellent during February, March and April hit $5.9 million, a 323% spike over the $1.4 million spent during the same period in 2015. Data from IRI, charting brick-and-mortar sales over the 12 months ended May 15, showed a 4.4% increase in the first-aid insect products segment, with total retail sales during the year just short of $15.2 million.
Suppliers and retailers say most of that increase came in the past few months, and they expect sales to continue to soar as summer progresses. Some suggest that while their particular product will not be sought out by people looking to ward off mosquitos, the Zika scare could act as a sort of tide that lifts all boats.
“You need a repellent to fight off Zika virus,” said Jim Creagan, president of Randob Labs, which markets Sting-Kill, a maximum-strength formula that relieves the pain and itching from insect stings and bites. “I am sure there is some secondary effect where mosquitoes are top of mind of the shopper, so they may buy some repellent, a citronella candle and some Sting-Kill all in the same shopping trip.”
According to the CDC, Zika-carrying mosquitos will flourish in as many as 40 states this summer, and retailers have helped shoppers prepare by offering promotions, educational efforts and ensuring that they have adequate supplies of insect repellent products.
CVS pharmacy, for example, is adding signage to its 4,000 stores and distributing pamphlets on how to combat the disease.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, where Walgreens operates 120 stores, the company has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and the Puerto Rico Department of Health to raise awareness about how residents can protect themselves from Zika virus. In addition, the retailer has cut the price on products that the CDC said can fight Zika. The price reductions ran the gamut from DEET-based insect repellents to condoms, which can prevent sexual transmission of the disease.
Fleet offers future leaders prime, hands-on experience
Fleet intern Ali Costikyan
Many of those in Fleet Laboratories’ top leadership garnered experience at large consumer packaged goods companies. In fact, the sales leadership team has amassed more than 165 years of experience with eight blue chip companies holding roles across 10 different functions from supply chain to finance. “We have seasoned people who are brand builders,” said Todd Hutsko, VP sales.
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While bringing their expertise from other companies, the team at Fleet has a focus on the future — looking to use its nimble size to build the next generation. Because Fleet is private and a midsize company, there are opportunities for employees to really get into the trenches. And paramount is the understanding the executives had for realizing that EQ — emotional intelligence or quotient — is just as important as IQ for the type of executive Fleet wants to nurture.
Hutsko praised the next generation of leaders as a group who value work-life balance and like to be able to connect what they do as a career to meet their personal ethos. It is Fleet’s goal to help them achieve that.
Fleet is embarking on outreach programs to college campuses, such as a recent visit to Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where Hutsko and others met with students at a business fraternity with aspirations on becoming future business leaders. Praising the caliber of the students, Hutsko said Fleet offers a good fit for their career goals. “Softer skills are important to today’s work. A small company gives advantage,” he said. “You work with a network of people; the walls are broken down where you have the ability to get a lot done.” He said millennials are accustomed to working in groups and, of course, using social media skills.
This year, Fleet also initiated an internship program, which is already delivering multiple benefits. The intern, Ali Costikyan, is opening the company’s eyes to the predilections of the millennials. “We have a culture of checking in, and we ask her daily what we can do better. We are listening and asking many questions,” Hutsko said. Fleet hopes to expand to as many as five interns in the future.
Costikyan, a rising senior marketing major at Syracuse University, was selected from a pool of impressive candidates, Hutsko said. She praises the opportunity to have real-life experience. “Because of Fleet’s size, I am fortunate enough to be able to ‘shadow’ almost everyone in the office, meaning I will have the opportunity to see how all of the different sales and marketing positions within the company operate and learn from all of the very experienced people working here,” she said. “After only being here for two weeks, I know that my internship experience is really unique compared to those of my peers. My supervisor, Craig Stoll [director, customer strategy and insight for Fleet], was very clear when I interviewed with him what would be expected of me, so I had a good idea of what I’d be working on throughout the summer. I’m really getting a hands-on experience,” she said, explaining some of her peers are just doing “busy work,” at their internships.
Her tasks include everything from sitting in on digital media training meetings to retail fieldwork where she sees how strategies are executed in stores. “Craig makes sure to emphasize that it’s just as important for me to gain experience and take as much out of the internship as it is for me to give back to the company,” she said. Costikyan said everyone “takes great consideration of my opinion,” and listens to her opinions in meetings. “I have been affectionately named the ‘resident millennial’ in the office, and because of this, I get asked my opinion a lot,” she said.
Knowing the pulse of millennial consumers has been a big focus for Fleet as it re-energizes several categories, including feminine hygiene. Summer’s Eve, once a brand associated with douche, has been expanded to an array of products, such as portable cleansing cloths, that are favorites of young women.
Fleet isn’t only focused on the millennial workforce. The company also is enriching its team with experienced employees looking to have a fertile opportunity to use knowledge they’ve amassed in the business.
NBTY: Investing in development, focusing on empowerment, diversity
Take a new leadership team that has been in place for nearly two years; add a strong, stated focus on investing in and retaining the best talent in the industry; blend new talent with long-term company leaders and associates; all to create the best mix of diversity and human resources who possess rich industry knowledge and leading CPG expertise. This is the leadership recipe NBTY has been following — and it’s working, said Andrew Archambault, chief customer officer, U.S. Nutrition – NBTY.
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“We believe this recipe uniquely positions us to be the global pureplay leader in wellness products and consumer solutions,” Archambault noted.
At NBTY, focused investment in a 10-week internship program, which most recently drew nearly 1,500 applicants from leading universities across the United States, ranks among the top strategies for attracting the next generation of business leaders. A total of 20 interns work in every area of the company, from IT and supply chain to sales and marketing. NBTY’s leadership team spends significant time — both formally and informally — mentoring potential future associates throughout the duration of the program.
The best opportunities for leadership development, NBTY has found, come from being involved in actual initiatives. “Many of our associates and interns are involved in everything from new technology rollouts to new product innovations and category solutions,” Archambault said. “Additionally, our U.S. CPG team has invested in formal sales training, I believe for the first time in our company’s history. This investment is focused on increasing our capabilities to deliver for our retail customers.”
“Traditional relationship selling skills are not enough for today’s fast-paced, data-intensive retail environment. We believe investing formally in training that helps our teams convert meaningful insights into actionable product and retail solutions is highly valued by our customer partners and ultimately, our consumers. Our people also appreciate the company’s investment in their own professional development,” he said.
Moreover, the company continues to make concerted efforts to provide associates with the tools they need to succeed. For example, NBTY is currently putting financial resources behind systems and IT upgrades to help associates do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. This includes a new, best-in-class planning and promotion system that will assist its customer teams in increasing joint business planning capabilities across nearly 120 customers. “Today’s business talent, and our retailers, expects their best partners to have best-in-class systems and capability, and we continually invest to ensure we have the best support tools in the industry,” Archambault stated.
Then, there is the heightened emphasis on associate and team empowerment, rather than on a more historical “top-down-only philosophy.” Accordingly, cross-functional teams are regularly convened to foster and guide future innovation and develop new strategies. Archambault deemed such an emphasis as a positive change for NBTY’s talent, because its associates consider challenging the status quo and delivering solutions for ever-evolving consumer trends to be exciting, rewarding work.
“We’re not a company and culture that wants to only deliver more of the same,” Archambault stated. “We’re retaining our best — and the right — talent because they believe in and help shape our vision, and they are more empowered than ever to be a contributing author to our future.”
Embracing diversity helps as well. “Certainly with four-plus generations in the workforce, it is one of the most dynamic and diverse times to work in business,” Archambault said. “Our philosophy and approach is to embrace this diversity as a true advantage. The millennial workforce brings fresh ideas and perspectives, as well as full immersion in and comfort with data and technology. When you focus on incorporating the emerging workforce with the highly experienced and multi-functional associates and leaders already in your company, there is a real opportunity to create high performing teams. Again, we believe empowerment is a key to turning any challenges with these dynamics into winning opportunities. Our customers and consumers want faster decisions and solutions. Empowerment, with the right level of accountability and support, makes that happen.”