Target Stalking

Author: Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy

As the Chief Dental Geek, Michael McCarthy is the vision behind The Dental Geek blog and its purpose. Well known throughout the dental world, our seasoned geek Michael serves on several industry boards. Keep your eyes out for his popular articles and lists about all the most talked about topics in dentistry.
05.15.10 / 8:45 pm

One of the most fascinating forms of research for my job is definitely consumer observation. At least a couple of times a year, I take an hour out of my day and either investigate or observe the oral health product aisles in megastores like Target® or Wal-Mart®.

I must admit that I feel somewhat awkward stalking the aisle for an hour. I try to break up the monotony by asking people for recommendations. If the traffic is light, I explore what new and exciting offerings are available for purchase.

I spent an hour this last Saturday in my regional Target, and the bulleted items below are my observations. I highly recommend to you all doing this at least once. It is eye-opening! Consumers have a bevy of products available to them, and, if necessary, they can perform minor surgeries and repairs on their own dentition. This scares me. I actually saw some primitive scalers for sale, as well as many remedies for maintaining or repairing a broken tooth. I also saw enough pain relievers to keep anyone from seeing their dentist for quite a while. Should consumers have access to these types of products?

In-home whitening is definitely on a downward spiral. Two years ago, there were sections devoted to whitening products: pastes, strips, gels, trays, lights and rinses. What I see now is just the “big boys” and their products. I did see a major manufacturer offer “professional-grade whitening” (the highest % of hydrogen peroxide I have seen in a long time) But guess what? There was no product left,  it was sold out, and at a price of $49.99 for 14 days of treatment!

Oldies but goodies. Numerous flossing devices are available, but time after time, consumer after consumer, I saw them grab Johnson & Johnson REACH® Mint Waxed Floss or Glide®. Scope® definitely outpaced any other mouthrinse, although Listerine® original was a solid second. The new products and holistic oral care products sat untouched or unlooked at. And here I thought the fennel-flavored perio rinse would be a big seller!

My conclusion for this trip: People are in a hurry, and they tend to stick with brands they have apparently used for a long time. It was rare for me to see a mom, or dad for that matter, explore new offerings; not even trying a new flavor or form of a favored brand. People want to get in and get out. If their oral health habits are not broken, why try to fix them? On the upswing, I was amazed at how many people bought dental floss in the period of an hour. But by people, I mean women and obviously moms. Not a single male purchased floss while I was there.

One woman circled back, approached me and quite boldly stated, Are you a secret shopper or something? I looked at her, smiled and quietly replied, Something.

Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy

As the Chief Dental Geek, Michael McCarthy is the vision behind The Dental Geek blog and its purpose. Well known throughout the dental world, our seasoned geek Michael serves on several industry boards. Keep your eyes out for his popular articles and lists about all the most talked about topics in dentistry.

2 responses to “Target Stalking”

  1. Oral B flossers are AWSOME….

    If not for these handy little devices I would simply skip flossing. I’ve heard that if you only manage to do one of the following, brush, floss, rinse, then it should be flossing. I actually look forward to flossing now sorta.

    I’ve tried other flossers on the market but OralB ones are the best. I found them at Wegmans.

  2. I’m having trouble locating this information on the university websites. The only one I know for sure is King’s, 8 places. I heard that Bristol offers the most places, but I haven’t read anything that confirms this. Is there a set percentage of international students these universities must take out of all the dentistry places they offer?

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