Drug stores’ expanding role in consumer wellness

Leana Salamah, vice president of marketing at the International Housewares Association, discusses how drug stores have always been a purveyor of curative wellness for consumers.
Leana Salamah, vice president of marketing, International Housewares Association

What does wellness mean in a post-acute COVID world? 

Circumstances that consumers experienced over the last two and a half years — the overall anxiety that COVID-19 caused, coupled with associated lockdowns, changes in work and schooling, separation from family and friends and overall isolation — did a number on our collective well-being.

In January of 2020, the International Housewares Association fielded a consumer survey that asked, in part, what type of wellness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc.) was most important to consumers. It was the height of the omicron variant and yet consumers chose…

Mental wellness. Including restfulness, calmness and mental acuity.

Furthermore, those who selected physical wellness were far more concerned with nutrition, energy level and cardiovascular health than they were with weight loss.

Drug stores have always been a purveyor of curative wellness for consumers. For as long as we can remember, we have relied on drug stores to provide the remedy that treats whatever ails us — from prescription and over-the-counter medications to first-aid supplies and orthopedic aids.

Over the last two years, drug stores have played an enhanced role in preventative wellness — most notably in the form of providing vaccines. Granted, drug stores were already providing flu shots and various other inoculations, but many consumers continued to rely on their doctor for those. Then the distribution methods for the COVID-19 vaccines demanded that we view drug stores as a preventative medicine source — and flu, shingles and other vaccines have grown exponentially in these locations as a result.

Preventative wellness is a big business. And now drug stores are universally seen as a resource. This concept naturally expands beyond medications and vitamins and into various home + housewares products that are designed to encourage the kind of restfulness, mental calmness and acuity, and sophisticated monitoring of physical markers to encourage healthy habits. Drug stores that embrace a holistic view of preventative wellness across physical AND mental concerns and offer products to that end are likely to increase consumer engagement and, over time, enhance loyalty.

Finally, there is an aspect of wellness that is more socially oriented and that creates challenges of its own to be addressed. We’ll call this supportive wellness. 

The consequences of illness have changed — in particular the expectations for how we manage illness in public. We all recall a time before March of 2020 when it was commonplace for kids to go to school with runny noses, and for co-workers to show up for work with violent coughs. Staying home sick was reserved for only the most extreme situations. And even then, anything beyond two days felt extreme.

The mood is different now. As a society, we have recalibrated our tolerance for bringing illness into a public setting downward. This is probably a positive development for our collective physical health, but it places new stressors on families when it creates child-care challenges or unpaid leave from work. If drug stores are to truly treat wellness from start to finish, is there an opportunity to meet this need? The home + housewares industry has been solving these challenges for decades — developing products that make home life more convenient — easier, faster, etc. Could wellness displays include products that make it easier or faster to cook up that tomato soup and grilled cheese (my 11-year-old son’s meal of choice when he’s sick) or the in-home smart cameras that make me feel more at ease in leaving my kids alone while I go to work? Seems like a completely integrated solution that, as a mom, I would embrace.

Someone will recognize and address these needs. Drug stores are in a unique position to take the last two years of positive goodwill and increased traffic to position themselves as the definitive solution.

The best way to find the home + housewares products that can help you meet these evolving consumer needs is to join us in Chicago this March at The Inspired Home Show. You can learn more about the Show at TheInspiredHomeShow.com and you can browse exhibitors, brands and products at Connect 365.

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