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Not All Products Are Created Equal: Thermometers

In September we introduced a new series highlighting categories that contribute to bottom lines, even if they don’t always contribute to news cycles. We kicked off the series with a piece on Auto Batteries. As we enter 2021 with the global pandemic still a part of our everyday lives, this report focuses on one of the most important consumer products keeping us safe at home and at work.

Nearly as emblematic as wearing masks when out and about, Thermometers are adding an extra layer of reassurance as we engage with people in schools, stores, and offices across the country. Thus it is perhaps unsurprising that we’ve seen sales increase. Looking at the mix of Thermometer sales as a percentage of health supplies tracked by our consumer survey (including Glucose Test Trips, Blood Glucose Meter/Glucometers, Bathroom Scales, and Blood Pressure Monitors), shows a significant share increase versus the same month a year ago. (Interestingly enough, Bathroom Scales saw a significant decline and I am guessing that’s because no one wanted to actually record the impact of their “Quarantine 15.”)

a line graph displaying shares of thermometers and other health supplies
Source: TraQline Monthly Survey

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is influencing thermometer demand in different ways.

What types of Thermometers are people buying?

While approximately half of all thermometers being purchased are oral thermometers, forehead/temple thermometers are on the rise, taking share from other formats as they post significant increases every month since August, and overall increases since April of 2020.

a line graph displaying thermometer placement shares
Source: TraQline Monthly Survey

Which retailers sell most Thermometers?

While Walmart wins number one for unit share among all outlets, the retailer has seen a decrease in recent months, with #2 retailer Amazon picking up some of that share. However, while outlets like Target and Walmart have lost some share, most pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have maintained a steady share of Thermometer sales (9.7 and 7.8 percent respectively for the 3 months ending November 2020). While the majority of consumers report purchasing their Thermometers in a brick-and-mortar store ( 61.5 percent 3ME November 2020), online purchases have seen an unsurprising and significant increase as well.

Which Thermometer Brands sell the most?

There are a multitude of brands available to consumers. With all these options, consumers don’t seem to gravitate toward any one brand: One top brand, Vicks, captured only 4 percent of the total Thermometer market, and approximately 1 in 5 self-report that they do not know what brand they purchased).

It appears that availability was more important to consumers than any particular brand loyalty. However, during the early days of the pandemic, Braun saw a boost to unit shares of forehead/temple Thermometers. Brands like iProven and Equate have seen significant increases to their unit share of forehead/temple Thermometers, though they each only make up 3 percent of the market.

Has Thermometer average price shifted?

Given the shift in mix towards more expensive forehead/temple Thermometers, average prices paid for thermometers peaked at $24 in the 3ME August 2020 (up from $19 from the same period a year ago), in between the initial lockdowns of the pandemic and the start of schools beginning to reopen. Consumers realized that this would be a prolonged quarantine as states had shuttered non-essential stores. Average price paid has slowly started to fall and sits at $22, which is still a few dollars higher than the averages for Thermometers from pre-pandemic.

Changes in Consumer Healthcare Purchases due to the Pandemic

A year ago none of us could have predicted the soaring demand in Thermometers or Health Supplies in general. Until the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely available and more people have some measure of immunity, keeping track of physical health will be important to consumers. Interested in understanding more about our monthly survey and the products tracked? For more information on some of the monthly products we track, please contact Eric Voyer.

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TraQline's Dave Stevenson, PH.D President & CEO
Dave Stevenson, PH.D
President & CEO

Before launching The Stevenson Company in 1995, President and CEO Dave Stevenson managed worldwide research for product development, distribution, advertising, and customer satisfaction. His roles, first as head of the marketing section of General Motors’ worldwide product planning group, and later as director of GE Appliances’ global economics and market research team, give him extensive experience in consumer as well as business to business marketing solutions. Mr. Stevenson holds a Ph.D. in statistics from Southern Methodist University.