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Stocking up on the new staple: Hand sanitizer



The importance of hand hygiene was highlighted early in the global COVID-19 pandemic. Health departments advised Canadians to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, or if that wasn’t available, to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Within days demand spiked, and consumers began stockpiling hand sanitizer, antibacterial liquid soap, disposable wet wipes and spray disinfectants.

According to market researcher Statista, year-over-year hand sanitizer sales in Canada jumped 735% during the week ending March 14, 2020, while sales of personal wipes grew 268%. The Canadian hand sanitizer segment is now worth US$29.11 million, and Statista expects 5.5% annual growth for the next five years.

As consumers cleaned out shelves of sanitizers and wipes, Health Canada began fast-tracking licenses for businesses to manufacture, package, label and/or import alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As a result, hundreds of distillers and brewers entered the hand hygiene market, while pharma and skincare companies also pivoted to produce sanitizer. The interim measure, says Health Canada, “will be in place until the regular supply of hand sanitizers stabilizes.”

That could be some time, says Amar Singh, Kantar Consulting’s principal analyst for Canada. “It’s not an out-of-stock problem, it’s basically that the manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand.” In June, for example, GOJO Industries, maker of Purell, announced it had more than doubled its pre-pandemic production levels, and was opening two new Ohio facilities to “expand its capacity to meet exponential increases in demand for Purell sanitizer, soap, wipes and surface spray,” according to the company.

“Demand is going to stay strong,” says Singh, “but the supply is actually going to come from smaller, more local manufacturers. Sourcing and traceability will be key, and the format size will be key, because people are not going to carry a one-litre jar of gel around with them.” He adds that portable sanitizers “will be part of our sanitary regimen for the foreseeable future,” especially as hygiene habits become ingrained. But while it’s currently “more about functionality,” consumers will soon start looking for value-added products. “For instance, hand sanitizer is bad for your skin in the long run, and there are health studies that have come out around strong hand sanitizers … so here will be a revisit of making it safer, there will be new fragrances, new chemical compositions, and even new innovations from this space such as products that are a moisturizer and sanitizer at the same time.”

Hawkesbury, Ont.-based The Green Beaver Company introduced its Antiseptic Spray Hand Sanitizer during the pandemic, although the company’s marketing project manager Yannick Brown says it was already planning to add sanitizer to its line of all-natural body-care products. Available in a 90-mL container, the spray features 70% USP-grade ethanol, essential oils and plant-based glycerin. Brown says he’s seen “an explosion of both conventional and natural alternatives now available,” and although demand “is declining over time,” he expects it to remain high.

Moncton, N.B.-based Prelam Enterprises also launched its E-Z Pur Soap On The Go at the peak of the pandemic in purse- and pocket-size spray bottles. “I realized we can’t carry the usual hand soap bottles with us to the grocery store, so I developed this convenient carry-with- you hand soap,” says Prelam co-founder Luc Jalbert. The soap contains five essential oils with “antimicrobial and antiseptic properties,” purportedly first used against the Black Plague. Jalbert adds that “since this innovation launched, we’ve developed a new alcohol-free hand sanitizer with glycerin, that is effective and that is approved by Health Canada.” Also new is its E-Z Pur Shopper’s Helper Surface Disinfectant in a portable 53-mL bottle.

We can expect to see even more anti-bacterial wipes and other new formats of hand sanitizer appearing on the market, says Singh, adding that “those innovations will be quick-selling items at the front of the store.”

He suggests merchandising hand sanitizer as part of a hygiene regime that includes moisturizer and other skin lotions, in the same way after-sun products are sold with sunscreen. Brown agrees, saying hand sanitizers should be “with the hand soaps, and at impulse purchase points like the cash.”

Singh also suggests grocers take their cues from U.K. chains like Marks & Spencer and Boots, which now sell mini versions of their private-label sanitizers in single and multi-pack formats. “It depends on the margins, but it’s an area of investment grocers should look into because it does add incrementality.”

Originally published at Canadian Grocer.


OCSA partners with Paygos for e-commerce platform

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association is partnering with



Paygos to create a service that will enable independent convenience stores to order merchandise from a centralized cloud-based platform.

Developed and managed by Paygos, the e-commerce platform will feature a wide range of CPG products, as well as automotive items and tobacco (the goal is to add beer when legislation is passed for convenience store sales).

“Our solution relies on existing distribution partners to fulfill all orders,” Paygos CEO Hesham Shafie explained in a release.

The service will be free to use for convenience stores in Ontario: The OCSA represents more than 6,000 independent retailers and regional chains in the province.

“For many years the convenience channel has searched for a business partner that can coordinate programs and services for the thousands of family-run convenience stores in Ontario,” said OCSA president and CEO Dave Bryans. “In a changing retail environment, working together with manufacturers and Paygos will allow independent store owners the same opportunities as major retailers in the province.”


A Q&A with Russell Large on how COVID-19 will reshape convenience

Six months ago, who would have predicted that a virus would sweep the globe, forcing the closure of schools, restaurants and workplaces across Canada for months? Convenience stores, exempt from closure, quickly proved their worth as essential businesses. With an increasingly diversified product offering and a strong place in the community, research shows consumers are counting on c-stores for the usual fare, as well as household staples usually associated with drug stores and supermarkets. 

Hoping that the worst of the crisis is over, attention is turning to recovery, and what the world will look like post-crisis. With new norms like social distancing, consumers are likely to rethink how they want to shop. The onus will be on c-store owners to adapt. 

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 11.08.37 AMContactless payment innovations will need to be accelerated. And pre-COVID planograms and customer flow maps may no longer work as well as they once did. Russell Large, senior business development manager in Ontario for Continental Store Fixture Group (and former vice president of retail services for Hugh Large & Associates Inc.), charts how the industry can evolve from the pandemic. 

 What concerns have you been hearing from c-store operators about the coronavirus? 

RL: I’ve been fielding calls left and right from district managers and independents. They want to know what they should be doing now to stay afloat, how they can help customers through the pandemic and how to make sure stores are ready for customers when they come back in droves. 

How significant of an impact will the pandemic ultimately have on the industry

RL: Huge. Frictionless payment technology over the past few years has been driven largely by millennials. Now there is a whole other reason why people are going to be interested in it, from “tap and pay” service and pre-order and locker pick-up to mobile app payment. C-store operators who have already made investments in this technology are now way ahead of the curve. 

With the rise of social distancing, should c-store owners be rethinking their floor plans? 

RL: What is going to become really important is the store entrance. Automatic door systems will need to be the norm, and the entrance area will be nice and wide and offer a clean line to the cashier counter. It will also be more important for customers to feel like they can move around the store without jamming up against one other. That might mean instead of having four gondolas, you have three. The devil is going to be in the details.

Do you think Plexiglas barriers between cashiers and customers will become the norm? 

RL: You are seeing grocery stores install sneeze guards because of the coronavirus: I get why they are doing it. However, if convenience stores put Plexiglas in the whole front cash area, they are losing sight of an important part of the experience for customers. It is important for customers to feel connected and be able to socialize with staff. I hope down the line, when it is safe to do so, we will see these types of barriers come down. 

At the height of the crisis, we saw supermarkets selling out of cleaning and hygiene products, like hand sanitizer and bathroom tissue. Is this an area for c-stores to further explore? 

RL: Good retailers change their merchandise mix on the fly. I suspect those c-stores who were able to stock-up on those items will continue to get traction and even expand the category in their stores, because it has great margins. It also shows that you are not just out to sell gum, meat sticks and slushies, although those are all good. 

How else did product demand change during the pandemic?  

RL: A guy up the street from me owns a couple of Circle Ks and he was selling more milk and dairy products than ever before because customers didn’t want to go into a big grocer. And he was clever about it by reducing his pricing on some items. It showed that he cares and isn’t just out to gauge people, but he still reaped the benefits on the backend since he moved so much more volume. 

It is heartening to hear stories in the industry of Canadian c-store operators who weren’t being predatory in their pricing. 

RL: The guy at Circle K was also giving out little courtesy packs of tissue to customers. You don’t have to be a parasite for your business to benefit at this time. People are going to remember the retailers who tried to help, and that goodwill they’ve built up will be theirs to lose. 

How are independents going to fare through this? 

RL: From a business point of view, you look at the light at the end of the tunnel and hope it is not a train and that things are going to get better. The independent guys with deep pockets are going to fare well because they are entrepreneurial and make investments for the future. A guy in Stratford, Ont. spent three weeks renovating his entire c-store. He has a Shell and still provided fuel through tap and pay and a payment window, but you could’t go inside the store because he was tearing up the floor. His renovation plan is based on what he has learned over the past few weeks that would make the experience even more convenient and easier for people. 

What advice do you have for distributors? 

RL: When your good customers are going through a crisis, it isn’t time to chase their business and ask about their planogram. It is time to get personal. Ask them, “Are you OK? How is the family?” Have a laugh about trying to find toilet paper. They might not need to order anything from you right then, but it is important to continue these relationships. When the situation gets better, and it will, everyone can then move forward together. 

A version of this article appears in the May/June issue of Convenience Stores News Canada.

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McCowan: Secure tobacco merchandising is our business

image001Secure tobacco merchandising is an important factor in the Gas Convenience business! McCowan has been at the forefront of designing secure tobacco merchandising solutions that meet “Dark Market” regulations.

Security will always be on the minds of retailers who are concerned about the safety of their employees and the control of their inventory. In addition to tobacco merchandisers, McCowan manufactures backroom lock-ups, vape merchandisers and pass-through boxes for retailers who serve late night shoppers.


Secure counter top tobacco cabinet.

Secure counter top tobacco cabinet.

  • Industry Standard. McCowan Tobacco Merchandisers and Security Products have been an industry standard for 25 years. More than 10,000 Secure Tobacco Merchandisers have been sold!
  • Floor, Counter Top and Under Counter Solutions. McCowan offers secure tobacco merchandising solutions to accommodate any space. Floor models are 72” tall, counter top models are 52” tall; both are available in 36” and 48” widths. Under counter models are designed to fit seamlessly under your cash desk counter.
  • Pushers & Dividers for Easy Vending. McCowan provides pushers and dividers to keep tobacco or vape inventory organized for operators.
  • High Capacity. McCowan Tobacco Merchandisers are designed to hold a large inventory of tobacco products and manage multiple SKUs.
  • Anti-Theft Lock System and Security Door. The McCowan anti-theft lock system and security door have been tried and tested in the market for 25 years.
  • Dark Market Regulations. McCowan Tobacco Merchandisers meet all provincial regulations.
  • Vape Merchandising Solutions. McCowan offers locking cabinets with clear or frosted glass doors to merchandise vape products.
  • Backroom Lock-Ups. McCowan offers high capacity backroom lock-ups with anti-theft doors and locks.
  • Secure under counter tobacco cabinet with door closed.

    Secure under counter tobacco cabinet with door closed.

    Pass-Through Boxes. McCowan offers pass-through boxes to assist operators in safely serving late-night customers.

  • Built to Last. Made from high quality materials and finished with a durable powder coat.
  • Industry Leading Turnaround Times. McCowan has a long history of consistently delivering to stores in unrivalled lead times.

Call 416-291-7111 or e-mail for a catalogue!

For more information, visit our website.

Under counter cabinet with door closed and door open

Under counter cabinet with door closed and door open

Merchandising tips for shaping consumers’ perception of freshness

Fresh Food Display_Lg_032619A new study from Culinary Visions finds that retailers can get a product’s freshness across to customers with a few merchandising tips.

“Freshness is affected by a long list of different factors beyond the food itself. These factors include packaging, store perceptions and service style,” said Sharon Olson, executive director of Culinary Visions. “Consumers gravitate towards fresh merchandising cues such as clean and fully stocked display cases. Uncluttered shopping, dining and ordering spaces are also important aspects to consumers’ perceptions on freshness.”

According to the Culinary Visions Fresh Perspectives Study, 76 percent of consumers surveyed reported that a fully stocked shelf or display case is important to determining freshness.

The cleanliness of merchandising displays is also important to more than 90 percent of consumers. In addition, roughly two-thirds of consumers surveyed said that a clean display case was extremely important to consider food as fresh while 28 percent of consumers described that factor as a moderately important.

Clutter is also counterproductive to perception of freshness. According to the study, 90 percent of consumers surveyed said it was important to have a clear and uncluttered shopping, dining or ordering space when buying fresh food. Further, nearly half of consumers surveyed said it was extremely important while 41 percent of consumers said it was moderately important.

Looking specifically at on-site foodservice, consumers indicated cleanliness and presentation of a service counter, salad bar or an action station is significant, transparency also plays an important role in defining freshness.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed said that transparent packaging was “moderately important” or “extremely important” to them when considering freshness of food. In addition, 88 percent agreed that a label stating when the food was prepared was an important factor in their consideration of the freshness of food.

However, looks aren’t everything. As Culinary Visions found, consumers also allow online and word-of-mouth assessments of stores and restaurants to influence their decision to purchase fresh foods. Specifically, 88 percent said the reputation of a retail store is important when buying fresh foods and 84 percent of consumers reported that a restaurant’s reviews and ratings were important when making dining decisions to eat fresh foods.

The Culinary Visions Fresh Perspectives Study surveyed 1,500 consumers to gather comparable data about the key influencing factors impacting fresh food purchasing decisions at home and away from home. This comprehensive report explores fresh perception between age demographics, as well as topics such as merchandising, flavor preferences, customization and convenience.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 

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