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Brush Up on Cleaning.

Byline: Barbara Sax

Balancing the tried and true with the innovative is key to success in the category.

The cleaning supply category remains a solid performer for supermarkets, but without much innovation in the past few years, it's not a category offering retailers tremendous growth. For that reason, retailers that promote the category year-round and concentrate on pockets of growth within it are seeing the best results in the household cleaning aisle.

Previous innovation in the category has been convenience-focused, and products that make cleaning tasks easier are gaining share, particularly among younger consumers, who are more likely to purchase disposable cleaning products.

"The wipe segment continues to expand as convenience products become a bigger part of the category," says Rita Gorenberg, associate director of public relations at The Clorox Co., in Oakland, Calif. "We're focused on introducing products that make quick cleanup easier."

Last year, Clorox introduced Clorox Disinfecting Wipes with Micro-Scrubbers, which offer one smooth and one textured side for more challenging cleaning, and Triple Action Dust Wipes, designed to trap dust, hair and allergens.

Category Snapshot

"Multipurpose products are growing," says Shelley Cade, VP of marketing at St. Louis-based Willert Home Products. "Since consumers, particularly younger consumers who are living in smaller spaces, have limited space to store cleaning products, there's been movement toward one product that can be used for a variety of tasks."

Multichannel data from Chicago-based IRI for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 2 show that dollar sales of all-purpose cleaners/disinfectants outperformed most other household cleaning segments, with an increase in dollar sales of 2.5 percent. The comparably strong performance isn't surprising, since research from Mintel, also based in Chicago, indicates that household cleaner product purchasers are likely to rank cleaning power and antibacterial action among the most important attributes when selecting surface cleaners.

By comparison, glass cleaners/ammonia saw a slight decline in dollar sales, while nonabrasive tub and tile cleaner dollar sales held steady, with a meager 1.5 percent dollar sales boost during the previously cited period.

To boost sales year-round, Clorox partners with retailers during the back-to-school season to outpost disinfecting wipes near school supplies, and during cold and flu season on end caps and shippers placed near the pharmacy, to add incremental support and create opportunity. This year, the company will also make a push for antibacterial and dusting wipes during allergy season.

"We used educational shelf signage last year to communicate how keeping the house clean during cold and flu season can stop germs from spreading, and we plan to use that approach with allergy season this year," says Gorenberg.

Specialty cleaners remain the profit center of the category, with dollar sales up nearly 6 percent, according to IRI data. Gurnee, Ill.-based Weiman Products, which markets stainless steel, glass and granite cleaning products, among other specialty cleaning offerings, saw a 16 percent dollar sales gain over the period, and Falcon Safety Products, which markets the Dust-Off brand of electronics monitor-cleaning products, also experienced a 16 percent spike in dollar sales.

"As people are replacing their PCs and the smartphone and tablet market grows, consumers are looking for quick, easy and affordable solutions for cleaning their electronics, especially on the go," says Jennifer Rappaport, director of marketing at Branchburg, N.J.-based Falcon.

According to Rappaport, consumers are discovering multiple uses for Dust-Off products. "Our line of Dust-Off dusters was primarily used to clean CPUs and keyboards, but we're finding that people are also using them around the home on hard-to-clean items like blinds and lampshades, or to quickly remove dust from a shelf or bookcase without having to remove all the items on it," she says.

The company is working with retailers to keep its Dust-Off products together in the cleaning aisle rather than merchandised in the stationery or electronics sections. "We've created an off-the-shelf display that highlights all our electronics cleaning products," notes Rappaport. "With shelf spacing being so limited, we've found that off-the-shelf displays let retailers bring new products into a crowded section."

There's been some growth in toilet bowl deodorizers and cleaners, with dollar sales of both Clorox and Willert Home Products brands up 10 percent. Ty-D-Bol recently introduced toilet rim products priced 30 percent below other branded products. "People are still very into fragrance, especially when it comes to bathroom products," says Willert's Cade.

"Clorox Toilet Wand, which hit the market a few years ago, has had an uptick in sales," says Gorenberg. "Part of the growth is due to placement in the home cleaning tool section so the product goes head to head with traditional brushes. Growth is also due to a change in the way consumers, younger consumers in particular, are cleaning the bathroom."

Tradition Still Matters

While disposable products are a bigger part of the category, retailers also need to offer traditional cleaning tools. "We're seeing some migration to traditional dust mops and microfiber cleaning cloths that offer enhanced performance," observes Michael Silverman, director of marketing at Hudson, Mass.-based Butler Home Products. "Kroger dedicates a lot of space to traditional cleaning tools to give consumers choice, and their business is very strong."

Butler recently introduced a spin mop under the Clorox label that retails for $25, and updated its licensed Dawn line of kitchen brushes and sponges with more bristles, updated handles and hang-hole options. The products, which have an average retail price of $3.49, are often cross-promoted with Dawn dishwashing liquids at some chains.

"When we run a coupon for a brush-and-liquid-combination sale, consumers are 80 percent more likely to make that brush purchase," says Silverman. "When we can tie a highly consumable product to a higher-ring, higher-margin product and increase that basket purchase, the retailer wins." Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, he adds, takes a highly promotional approach to sponges, frequently running promotions that tie product to dishwashing liquids.

Dave Lynam, HBC buyer at Plainwell, Mich.-based Harding's Market-West, says that he'd be interested in cross-promoting Dawn and Gain licensed brushes and sponges with liquid cleaning products. "Household cleaning tools are a good, solid everyday category, and we do have good consumer acceptance when we cross-merchandise," he affirms.

While convenience is a key driver in the category, price is still a factor and promotion is a big consideration. A recent report from Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen reveals that half of global consumers choose where to shop for household cleaning supplies based on price.

"Promotions are very effective," agrees Cade. "Any time we do a coupon valued 50 cents or above, such as a $1 off when you buy two, it's successful. We try to keep our promotions very specific and targeted."

Tops Markets LLC promotes heavily in the category, with two-for-$5 and two-for-$9 deals common in the household cleaner aisle. The Williamsville, N.Y.-based chain also features deals on floor stands in the aisles and recently promoted Clorox Clean Up, Libman brushes and Soft Scrub cleaning gloves on separate floor stands in the aisle.

Big Time Products, meanwhile, is using dump bins, wing displays and clip strips to generate impulse purchases of its cleaning gloves. "We can boost incremental sales tenfold over normal shelf movement when we use well-located displays built around core items, such as detergents, dish soaps and household chemicals," says Tim Stapleton, president of U.S. sales.

The Rome, Ga.-based company recently upgraded its Soft Scrub Premium Fit with UltraFresh and its Premium Defense lines with a new color, fit and packaging.

"When we can tie a highly consumable product to a higher-ring, higher-margin product and increase that basket purchase, the retailer wins."

--Michael Silverman, Butler Home Products

"With shelf spacing being so limited, we've found that off-the-shelf displays let retailers bring new products into a crowded section."

--Jennifer Rappaport, Falcon Safety Products
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Author:Sax, Barbara
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2016
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