Multiples have long failed to capitalise on a changing holiday culture, but the predicted growth in sales of summer remedies are too lucrative to ignore. Ailsa Colquhoun reports

Thanks to increasingly flexible working patterns and larger disposable incomes, winter sun holidays are no longer the preserve of the rich. Helped by the growth in popularity of "spending kids' inheritance" holidays among the retired, one in five of us went in search of winter sun last year.

However, grocers have failed to grasp the opportunity that year-round holiday shopping presents. Phillipa Varney, marketing manager at suncare company Malibu, says: "Holidays are now all the year round, yet grocers ruthlessly remove sun protection from their shelves by the end of August. Significant business is enjoyed by the independents that continue to stock suncare products outside the school holiday period."

Health and beauty specialists are more focused when it comes to year-round sun preparation sales, according to John Marshall, sales manager at Hawaiian Tropic.

He says this partly explains Boots' continued dominance in summer remedies. TNS figures show that although Boots holds a 24.7% share of the toiletries and healthcare market, just ahead of Tesco at 20.2%, it eclipses all the multiples in summer remedies, with a 45.9% share [52 w/e January 1, 2006]. Tesco, in the number two spot, has a 12.2% share.

However, according to TNS, Tesco has made important volume gains over the past year, while Boots' share has remained static.

It may be in retailers' best interests to increase the availability of sunpreps because branded suppliers say value is returning to the market after years of being stripped out by own label products and promotional activity. TNS supports this, reporting a 25p increase in the average price of sunpreps.

As Hawaiian Tropic's Marshall says: "The grocery trade now appears to have accepted that EDLP does not increase the number of consumers. High/low pricing strategies appear to be returning."

Suppliers also predict 2006 will be a year of high volume gains, as consumers continue to make use of multibuy promotions. Ken Beck, marketing and sales manager at personal care products company Linco Care, says consumers are increasingly buying into the 'apply enough sunscreen' message.

Furthermore, they are also becoming increasingly prepared to pay for a higher SPF product.

Says Beck: "There is now a certain sector that is reaching for the SPF20 and saying: 'This is what I need, so I'll have to pay for it.'"

Boots' Soltan remains the number one product in the summer remedies market, according to TNS, despite the general pressure put on own label by aggressive brand promotions. Part of Soltan's success, Marshall believes, lies in the fact that some own label products are actually perceived as brands by many consumers.

Tesco is even extending its Finest range to include face-specific products, such as Finest SPF 15 and 25 Protection for the Face and an Aftersun Face Recovery Balm. Morrisons, meanwhile, is repackaging its Solcare range.

As for other summer health remedies, grocers could also do well to heed the example of Boots and make the most of out-of-season sales. Allergic conditions have increased fourfold over the past 20 years, and many are year-round problems. A third of allergy medicine sales take place outside the key April-July period [IRI, 52 w/e November 26, 2006]. And research by hayfever remedy company Zirtek suggests this year's season may have started early, with very high pollen counts already recorded.

Merchandising holiday medicines for longer could also be a way of unlocking add-ons such as anti-diarrhoeals, insect repellents, motion sickness remedies and plasters.

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Focus on Summer Health (April 2006)