Gain from Pain
By David Gill
Few product categories thrive from people's discomfort as much as handheld massagers.
And to judge from the number of new product launches at the International Home + Housewares Show earlier this spring, there are a lot of consumers with aches and pains out there. Vendors such as Helen of Troy, HoMedics, Panasonic and Wahl Clipper presented a slew of new handheld products designed to provide relief to shoppers' sore spots.
Helen of Troy introduced handheld massagers under its Body Innovations brand. According to Karen Molina, Helen of Troy's director of marketing for the retail division, personal massage has become a focus for this brand.
The time is currently right for this category, according to Molina. "With the baby-boomer generation getting older but still staying active, there is an increased need for items that help to soothe and massage away aches and pains," she said.
Molina also said the handheld segment has become the biggest among all types of massagers. She cited data from Nielsen's 2011 POS Massager Appliance Market report, which stated that handheld massagers account for more than 51 percent in total massage revenues and nearly 41 percent in units sold. Portability has become a key selling point with consumers "as large, heavy items are usually more difficult to maneuver and take them to different areas of the house, car or office," she said.
HoMedics unveiled several handheld massagers at the Housewares Show. The Contoured Point Handheld Massager features three massage head attachments and an easy-grip handle in a lightweight curved design. The Heated Handheld Massager provides heat along with two-speed variable massage intensity (low or high) and four custom massage attachments.
The Percussion Action Massager has dual pivoting-heads at up to 3,100 pulses per minute, along with variable speed control and three custom massage heads. The Ribbit Massager is a handheld item in a cover whose design replicates a frog's skin. It comes in green, brown and blue, and includes illuminated feet for an added element of fun.
Panasonic debuted its Reach Easy Point Percussion Massager at the show. This massager has two heads: one pointed head that targets a particular area of the body that has become stiff; and another, called a "chop head," that covers a broader area. It's designed to offer seven different massaging actions--light chop, heavy chop, light fist, heavy fist, vibration, wave and pulse.
Wahl Clipper introduced two products, the Deep Tissue Massager and the Deluxe Heat Therapy Massager. The former comes with multiple massage heads to provide a variety of massage effects, a variable speed dial to adjust the massage intensity, and is corded to provide maximum power. The latter combines heat with nine interchangeable heads to help increase the blood flow to sore muscles, along with a variable intensity control and a turbo setting.
According to Jenny McLaughlin, Wahl's marketing product manager, the massager category had experienced some dramatic declines in the past five years because it had been focused on providing relaxation rather than pain management.
Regearing this category toward providing pain relief has given it some new juice in these past few years. Along with the need by baby boomers for pain-management products, McLaughlin cited the trend toward "all-natural" pain relief. "Consumers are becoming more aware of what they are putting into their bodies," she said. "Many risks are associated with taking prescriptions and OTC (over-the-counter) medications, so more and more people are turning to massagers to reduce pain."
Massagers also answer consumers' need for speed. "We are a 'now' society," McLaughlin said. "We want results and we want them immediately. OTC and prescriptions are systemic, taking a long time to affect the source of pain. Wahl's handheld massagers are designed to pinpoint those specific pain points."
Looking down the road, massages have potential as long as vendors continue marketing the category as solutions to everyday needs, Molina said. "Products need to be less gimmicky and more effective in relieving aches and pains and stress," she said.
Certainly the numbers favor more growth for the category. "Our research shows that 76 million people suffer from chronic pain on a daily basis," McLaughlin said. "People with pain will always be looking for help."