Stuck in the red: Sun care sales still down


Despite the constant warnings swirling around skin cancer and efforts by retailers to offer a bigger selection on a year-round basis, the sun care category is still stuck in the red.

(To view the full ECRM Personal, Oral and Sun Care Report , click here.)

Overall dollar sales of suntan products decreased by 1.3% to $1.1 billion, for the 52-week period ended May 15, according to IRI. What’s also concerning is that unit sales dipped somewhat more — by 1.6%, to 138 million, IRI figures indicated. Dollar and unit sales of suntan lotions and suntan oils slid downward as well, by 1.3% and 1.6%, respectively. One positive area is sunscreens and insect repellant, where sales expanded 3.4%, much of that attributed to consumer fear over insect-transmitted diseases.

One reason for weak sales could be stepped up sun care offerings from prestige and specialty stores. Euromonitor reported an overall category uptick of 2%. Mass buyers also noted that more sun products with anti-aging capabilities were being sold at Ulta Beauty and department stores.

While sun care is certainly seasonal, buyers noted that consumers are motivated — even on a year round basis — to seek formulas with specific benefits. Some of the options exhibiting the most sales kick, IRI data showed, are those with such benefits as water and sweat-resistance, easy application, skin comfort and such add-ons as mosquito repellant rather than just UVA/UVB protection.

For example, Solskyn Personal Care’s Bullfrog Mosquito Coast DEET-, PABA- and paraben-free sunscreen topped IRI’s list of best-selling sunscreens/insect repellents for the 52-week period ended May 15, with dollar sales of $3.7 million. In addition to providing 2-in-1 protection from the sun and insect bites, the product resists water for up to 80 minutes, contains no oil and is enriched with aloe leaf extract and vitamin E.

New product introductions reflect consumers’ apparent preference for sunscreen with benefits that transcend shielding them from UVA and UVB rays. For its part, Solskyn has rolled out six new sun care products, including No-Ad Oil-Free Face Sunscreen. The product is being promoted as guarding against skin cell DNA damage caused by UV light. Other line extensions encompass No-Ad anti-aging body moisturizers, which contain an SPF 15 broad-spectrum sunscreen agent, along with vitamins, antioxidants and moisturizers.

Fruit of the Earth has extended its Block Up! brand franchise with Continuous Spray SPF 30 and Block Up! Kids Continuous Spray SPF 30, as well as Block Up! Continuous Spray Sport SPF 30. The non-Sport spray products contain aloe vera — along with vitamins A, C and E — and offer UVA/UVB protection. The Sport version has all of these attributes and is sweat-and water-resistant.

Meanwhile, Edgewell Personal Care recently augmented its Banana Boat line with the addition of SunComfort Lotion Sunscreen, available in SPF 30 and SPF 50+ varieties. The product does give users broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, but it also is water-resistant with moisturizing properties. The formula has an added benefit of making it easy to brush sand off skin.

And now ClearlySheer, which the company said affords sun protection without clogging wearers’ pores, is part of the Coppertone sunscreen lineup from MSD Consumer Care. Bayer also has reformulated its Coppertone Sport sunscreen to “feel light” on the skin.

Not surprisingly, skin care prevention advocates, marketers and even some drug store chains are attempting to promote sun safety via a variety of campaigns. The American Cancer Society has, through media and educational activities, been pushing hard on its Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap skin cancer awareness campaign, which it designed to remind consumers to decrease their risk of skin cancer by slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen, slapping on a hat and “wrapping” with sunglasses. The National Council on Skin Caner Prevention, of which the American Cancer Society is a member, harnesses the campaign website to share sun safety tips that are applicable year-round, as well as instructions about sunscreen use.

For its part, Edgewell Personal Care has tapped a myriad of technological tools to help shoppers make educated sunscreen purchasing decisions, including what to select based on the weather that day or the activities they plan outside. This is an interactive tool on the fixture that suggests formulas based on time outside, activities and overall weather forecast.

MSD Consumer Care is running a multiyear campaign built around the Coppertone brand. Geared toward families, the campaign promotes regular sunscreen application as an important move that can be made toward keeping skin cancer at bay. Players from the United States Soccer Federation and the National Women’s Soccer League serve as brand ambassadors. On the Coppertone website, consumers will see detailed information about the sun and its effects, as well as about how to best take advantage of sunscreen and other sun care products. An explanation of the UV index and a “product finder” can be accessed on the website as well.

Social media also is being harnessed on the marketer end to command more attention for sunscreen. For instance, Edgewell’s Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Lotion Sunscreen was featured in seven episodes of actress Shay Mitchell’s YouTube series, “Shaycation.” Mitchell has more than 21 million followers across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, and will promote Hawaiian Tropic across her social media channels.

As for efforts by drug chains to boost sunscreen sales, several players — including CVS and Walgreens, as well as regional contenders — are carrying larger assortments of sunscreen year-round instead of featuring a large selection during the summer months and scaling back once fall arrives.