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Countdown wants to remove stigma around periods and incontinence

Image of a person picking up a box of tampons off the shelf
Image of a person picking up a box of tampons off the shelf

New Zealand supermarket chain Countdown is changing the way it refers to products for periods and continence care online in an effort to remove the stigma that still clings to these terms.

The retailer has removed the ‘personal care and sanitary products’ and ‘incontinence products’ categories on its e-commerce site and is now calling the category ‘period and continence care’.

“Words like ‘personal hygiene’ and ‘sanitary products’ give the impression that periods – which are an entirely natural part of life – are somehow something to hide to yourself, or that they’re unhygienic,” Kiri Hannifin, Countdown’s GM of corporate affairs, said in a statement.

“They absolutely aren’t, and we can play an important role in helping change that.”

Using terms like ‘continence care’ and ‘continence products’ rather than incontinence could help break down the barriers customers might have when seeking out these products, Countdown said, particularly men.

The retailer has also changed the name of its ‘intimate hygiene’ category online to ‘genital washes and wipes’.

“The more we can help bring these terms into the open, and call them what they are without having to use euphemisms, the better it’s going to be for our customers and future generations,” Hannifin said.

In addition to helping normalise the language around periods and continence care, the change will also make it easier for customers to find products like pads, tampons and menstrual cups when shopping online, Countdown said.

The retailer is considering making these changes in stores, too.

“Young women, in particular, are passionate about reclaiming the language and calling periods exactly what they are. We want to support that by reflecting this in our shopping environments. We’re starting with our online shopping platform, but we’ll also be looking at how we can change things in our stores too,” Hannifin said.

According to Countdown, it is the first supermarket in the world to use the word period to describe period products.

The announcement follows Countdown’s work in 2018 to lower the price of its own-brand period products to help address the significant levels of period poverty being experienced by women and girls in New Zealand. 

Countdown has also worked closely with charities such as The Salvation Army, KidsCan and brands like U by Kotex to help provide period products for women and girls who are struggling to access them.

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