Marsh Offers Pregnant Women Free Prenatal Vitamins

Discussion
Jan 28, 2008

By George Anderson

Pharmacy operators have gone to plans including $4 pricing for 30-day supplies of certain generic prescriptions medicines while others have chosen to offer popular antibiotics for free. Now, Marsh Supermarkets is taking an interesting approach to targeting a key consumer group with the offer of free prenatal vitamins to pregnant women as part of its Prenatal Select program.

“We at Marsh understand that while pregnancy is a time of joy, it can also bring with it many concerns,” Chris Duffy, vice president of pharmacy for Marsh Supermarkets, told Chronicle-Tribune. “Marsh is happy to help alleviate one financial concern with the introduction of our free prenatal vitamin program.”

To receive the free prenatal vitamins, consumers need to present a valid prescription. Pregnant women receive a free 30-day supply of the prenatal vitamins.

“This program is good for a year basically on their prescriptions,” Marsh pharmacy manager Kellie Fryling told WTHR. “So you are talking they could save over $200. Even if they do have prescription insurance, they are still going to have co-pays of $10 or $20 dollars, so it’s still savings over the course of a year.”

Pregnant women who participate in the program have the option of receiving one of three formulas manufactured by Ethex. These include Advanced NatalCare prenatal vitamins, NatalCare Plus prenatal multivitamin/mineral tablets and NataTab Rx vitamins and minerals tablet with folic acid.

Marsh is counting on support from members of the medical community to help make its Prenatal Select program a success.

“Any patient who is thinking about becoming pregnant should start taking prenatal vitamins. It’s good to get the vitamins on board beforehand. They prevent birth defects and help your baby’s development,” Dr. James Noland, St. Vincent Center for Women’s Health, told WTHR.

A prescription is necessary, according to Dr. Noland, so that women receive an adequate amount of folic acid. “The over the counter prenatal vitamins simply have less folic acid in them. The prescription strength has one mg of folic acid and that is recommended daily allowance for a pregnant patient.”

Amy Peak, Butler School of Pharmacy, sees the move as a positive one for Marsh. “When you think of a pharmacy chain, most everyone will mention names like CVS or Walgreens. Especially for a place like Marsh or Kroger, you have to dig out your niche,” she told WTHR.

Discussion Question: What do you think about Marsh’s free prenatal vitamin program? How much do you think this program will benefit Marsh inside its pharmacy and in other areas of the store?

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17 Comments on "Marsh Offers Pregnant Women Free Prenatal Vitamins"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Great idea…sort of. Let’s start with the timing. Why just 30 days? If Marsh is making a real commitment to support pregnant women why wouldn’t the vitamins be free (or at least sold at a drastically reduced price) for the other eight months. Also, why just vitamins made by one manufacturer? All vitamins aren’t created equal after all.

Finally, since prenatal development can sometimes be delicate, I hope Marsh has some way of indemnifying itself against suits by women arguing that the vitamins (or lack of them after the initial 30 days) caused complications in their pregnancies. I hate to look a gift vitamin program in the mouth but we do live in litigious times.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Perhaps Marsh could hand out some Vitamin V blue pills to the guys and develop some male consumer bonding as well.

Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
14 years 3 months ago

It makes no difference what it does to their bottom line, it is a wonderful thing to do. Bless them.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Marsh’s free prenatal vitamin program = great publicity and a great repeat traffic generator. It’s refreshing to see some innovation in retail sales promotion, since it’s so rare.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 3 months ago

What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to conceive.

There seems little comprise when God’s loveliest creation, woman, chooses between perpetual adoration and pregnancy. Thus it seems logical that a thoughtful retail “helpmate” such as Marsh’s free prenatal vitamin program will create a closer spending bond with biologically-young female customers.

Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
14 years 3 months ago

Kudos to Marsh for continued out-of-the-box thinking. Free prenatal vitamins brings attention to their pharmacy in a way that is linked to the best possible health angles for a food store–nutrition and prevention. Coupling that position with pregnancy builds rapport (and hopefully loyalty) from women during this important life change. Healthier habits and stronger loyalty…sounds like a win-win for all.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

My understanding of the offer was different to Ryan and Anne’s–it seemed to me that the vitamins were for 30 days at a time for a period of a year, not just for one brief spurt. This seemed to be supported by the quote about women taking the vitamins before they get pregnant. That said, I do agree with those who have applauded pregnant women as a target audience. As those women are the ones most likely to do their family shopping for many years to come, they seem a good group to try and make loyal.

John Lofstock
Guest
John Lofstock
14 years 3 months ago

This is the kind of move convenience store retailers would certainly like to see a lot less of. When big-box retailers choose to flex their muscles they can do so in such a profound way that they can steal long-term business from other retail segments, and this is the kind of move that may do just that.

Convenience retailers already struggle to attract the female demographic and have nothing to offer by way of comparison that equates to giving moms-to-be free prenatal vitamins. Not only will Marsh capture this demographic for the entire pregnancy, but they are building a database of information that will allow them to target these shoppers with mailings and coupons in the months and years after the baby is born.

I would expect drug store chains like Walgreens and CVS to follow with similar programs because they are getting hit on two fronts: losing those vitamin sales and losing the ancillary sales that go along with them.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Focusing effort in the area of preventive medicine is a great idea. Taking care of oneself and a growing baby is an important step in eliminating some health problems later. Ryan is right; the company needs to examine the liability issues.

One month is not enough; women need to take care of themselves for the whole term of the pregnancy and even before. Maybe Marsh could partner with the manufacturer and extend the care either free or at a very low cost for the term of a woman’s pregnancy.

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
14 years 3 months ago

What a brilliant, family-family, traffic generating move!!! And talk about a niche to earn loyalty. Young mothers are the gateway to expanding families with at least 20 years of intense grocery shopping. Marsh has a good chance with this innovation of earning loyalty far greater than any loyalty program.

Now Marsh needs to test the innovation, paying careful attention to the market baskets that come with prenatal vitamin visits. Most retailers do a poor job establishing statistically valid control groups to empirically prove sales uplift. This is ironic because at the heart of every retail is an innovation engine. Why go by hunch when most retailers have the technology to prove sales uplift?

Anne Howe
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

The concept of taking better care of shoppers is good, but this program seems too transparent and light. It would be better if they had added a value component that lasted through the duration of a pregnancy and could help the shopper connect each month with a relevant offer, or even alternate an offer with useful information. A one-off program of this nature is just an ineffective in the long run as a one week TPR. It reinforces the wrong message in the mind of the shopper.

Aaron Campbell
Guest
Aaron Campbell
14 years 3 months ago

This is a fantastic idea. What a great way to be in the game without having to take on the mega stores outright.

Consumer loyalty is so critical and when this can be built while also providing a great service that also leads to long term relationship…this gets back to serving the customer in its truest sense. That’s the way it should be, providing great service and advancing the company, as well as long term sales numbers.

Ken Wyker
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

I agree with Bill Robinson…brilliant move! This is a perfect example of strategic target marketing. Identify a group of customers worthy of incremental investment and then provide an incentive that uniquely and personally benefits them.

Young families are a great target and Marsh will reap the rewards of this promotion for years to come.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

When I started my first supermarket job, the store gave out free suckers to kids. I don’t see much difference with this new promotion.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 3 months ago

Assuming the lawyers have reviewed the fine print, this is a great idea.

Hopefully they follow-up the process with coupons for diapers and wipes, then formula and food, as the time passes.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

I think Wal-Mart has a better plan. Instead of free vitamins they simply charge mothers lower prices on everything else.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 3 months ago

The program seems to differentiate Marsh pharmacies from others and attracts the important target market of pregnant women, and future moms. I would hope that the selection of three different vitamin formulas would satisfy most doctors in the choices offered (some with iron, some without iron, more folic acid etc.)

A program like this could have a very logical follow-up and provide these moms with nutrition advice on “what to eat while you’re expecting,” “foods for a healthy baby,” “nutrition tips for infants and toddlers,” as well as physical activity suggestions to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. Marsh Supermarkets could then offer “quick and easy” meal solutions, recipes, and the ingredients for these meals in one location of the store.

Moms are starving for this type of credible and practical advice as well as solutions to their now busier than ever lives.

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