Target Stalking

Author: Dental Geek
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.

Dental Geek

Dental Geek

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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