Whilst the Irish consumer health market recorded growth in 2012, this was at lower levels than that seen over the past four years. Consumers were assured that the worst was over economically, and that a return to growth was in evidence; albeit an export-led recovery.
However, consumer sentiment remained low, and concerns relating to the wider European economy prevailed. Consumer spending remained muted as levels of disposable income remained depressed, with the majority of people focused on debt reduction.
In response to this, value for money continued to feature as a key concern for consumers, with efficacy increasing in importance as a factor in the purchasing decision for many. More than ever, no longer in a position to incur the expense of trying out several different products, consumers were driven by a need to obtain the one product which would address their health issues or concerns effectively.
With disposable incomes being squeezed ever tighter as a result of changes to income tax levels, high unemployment and a property and mortgage crisis which appears to be deepening as people struggle to meet their monthly commitments, it is unsurprising that consumer confidence remains extremely low, and that spending on anything other than essential items is simply unaffordable.
Whilst consumer health was somewhat insulated from the effects of Ireland's recession and subsequent lack of recovery due to the perceived essential nature of many products, it was certainly not immune, with consumers continuing to switch to lower-cost, generic and private label products, as well as increasing the time between making purchases.
According to a recently released report, 'Consumer Health in Ireland,' sales through chemists/pharmacies continued to lead in the Irish market in 2012, despite increasing availability of products through other channels - supermarkets in particular.
The strong position of chemists/pharmacies was supported by the large number of products which may only be sold through this channel, as well as the high level of knowledge amongst pharmacy staff in relation to general medical conditions and the suitability of products. It is not unusual for consumers to build up a long term relationship with their local pharmacy, further contributing to the popularity of this channel.
Consumer health in Ireland already faces a difficult period in the coming years, and whilst these changes are for the most part to be welcomed, as they help to ensure consumers' safety, there is also annoyance amongst consumers, many of whom feel that too many restrictions are being put in place.
The overall effect will be to reduce value sales in the coming years, as consumers become more aware of the dangers associated with certain products, or as availability declines. Where products are removed from sale, either by the manufacturer or by the IMB, consumers are often unlikely to seek out alternative products, and will merely cease to spend in this area.
For more information on the Irish consumer health market, see the latest research: Consumer Health Market
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