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Spotlight on Laundry and Household Cleaning Supplies.

Byline: Michal Christine Escobar

Instead of just merchandising store brand cleaners on the shelf as an alternative to the national brand, retailers could benefit by showcasing their own-brand products throughout the store.

When it comes to cleaning, it's not surprising that consumers are looking for products that will save them time and elbow grease. But cleaning products can be very expensive, putting a strain on grocery budgets. Store brand cleaners are one way retailers can help consumers keep more money in their wallet. However, consumers can be leery of store brand cleaners' efficacy. How then could retailers convince consumers that store brand cleaners are just as good, if not better, than the national brands? One way is through in-store merchandising and messaging. If retailers demonstrate they are confident in their products, then consumers will be also.

To learn what retailers are doing well and not so well here, we visited the laundry and cleaning supplies sections of three dollar stores in the Chicagoland area: a Family Dollar store in Gurnee, Ill., operated by Matthews, N.C.-based Family Dollar Stores Inc.; a Dollar General location in Mundelein, Ill., operated by Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based Dollar General Corp.; and a Dollar Tree store in Vernon Hills, Ill., operated by Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree Inc. Our visits took place on a Wednesday in mid-March in the early afternoon.

Family Dollar

General observations: The cleaning and laundry supply section takes up the last two aisles on the right-hand side of the store (looking into the store from the front entrance). A large section of cleaning equipment such as sponges, scrub brushes, mops, brooms, dust bins and latex gloves is on the wall to the right of these two aisles.

We found three store brands in the cleaning supplies section: Family Dollar, Family Values and Family Solutions. The store was neat and clean, and most of the products we looked at were fully stocked. Traffic was very light during our early afternoon visit to the store.

The upside:

* a0x20 Family Solutions regular bleach was advertised as a Great Buy!" with two different shelf tag signs. Most of the bleach options for shoppers to choose from are under the store brand; these products are also merchandised in a block on the shelves.

* a0x20 In the cleaning equipment section, we found a greater-than-average presence of store brand products under both the Family Values and Family Solutions brands compared to the other sections in this store.

The downside:

* a0x20 When we found shelf tags pointing out store brand products, it was because the product was on clearance and not because the store was promoting the value of its store brands. Instead, most shelf tags were advertising "Everyday low prices" for national brand products.

* a0x20 We found multiple end caps and island displays of cleaning and laundry supply products, but none of these displays featured any store brand products.

* a0x20 All of the front-of-shelf displays we found, such as clip strips, merchandised only national brand products.

Dollar General

General observations: Against the left wall and the back wall on the left-hand side of the store are the kitchen and all-purpose cleaners, as well as the cleaning equipment section (looking into the store from the front entrance). In the last aisle on the right-hand side of the store is the laundry supplies section. All store brand products in these sections are sold under the DG Home brand.

The sections were fairly well-stocked, with only a few products running low or completely missing from the shelves. Foot traffic was moderate during our afternoon visit.

The upside:

* a0x20 DG Home items are generally grouped together in a block format, making it easier to identify the store brand.

* a0x20 We found a "Spring Breeze" scented package of 35 single-dose Laundry Pacs in a resealable flexible plastic bag. This was the only dollar store we visited that had store brand single-dose laundry pods on store shelves. Additionally, it was on sale and had a black and yellow shelf sticker that read "Price Break $7.50."

* a0x20 We counted five different SKUs of fabric softener sheets in two different scents: Vanilla Lavender and Spring Breeze. Each scent is available in a 34-count and a 110-count. Beneath the 34-count boxes was a red and yellow sale sign advertising that the fabric softener sheets were 95 cents instead of $1.00. The store also offers two 110-count Spring Breeze boxes shrink wrapped together in a twin pack for $5.00. We did not see any national brands with this twin pack promotion, so it seemed to be unique to the DG Home brand.

The downside:

* a0x20 This store had an entire section dedicated to Mr. Clean cleaning equipment. The Dollar General items were interspersed with the national brand and were designed to blend in with the Mr. Clean products instead of stand out as the store brand.

* a0x20 Even though the store offered many cleaning products that were only $1.00 or $2.00, a significant savings over the national brand, there were no shelf tags or other in-store messaging to advertise this fact.

* a0x20 A display in the middle of the store merchandised cleaning products with shelf tag signage that read "Just $1 every day!" We were unable to find one DG Home cleaner on this island.

Dollar Tree

General observations: In this store, cleaning products take up two-thirds of the back wall. Half of the section is dedicated to laundry and clothing refreshers, while the other half is dedicated to hand/dish soap and bathroom, kitchen and floor cleaners. We found an additional cleaning supplies section in the last aisle on the left-hand side of the store.

We found three store brands among the laundry supplies, household cleaners and cleaning equipment: The Home Store, Scrub Buddies and Solutions. The sections were well-stocked and foot traffic was moderate to heavy during our afternoon visit.

The upside:

* a0x20 In the cleaning equipment aisle, we estimate that 90 to 95 percent of the products were the Scrub Buddies store brand.

* a0x20 This was the only dollar store we visited that used hanging clip strips to merchandise other store brand cleaning supplies. For example, we found The Home Store window wipes merchandised on a clip strip next to The Home Store glass cleaners.

* a0x20 In the liquid dish detergent section, The Home Store brand offered consumers five different SKUs, based on scent, with one completely unique scent that we could not find among the national brands: Pomegranate.

* a0x20 We saw numerous end cap displays promoting store brand cleaners and cleaning equipment.

* a0x20 Of all the dollar stores we visited, Dollar Tree did the best job of blocking its store brand products on the shelves and creating a visually striking billboard effect.

The downside:

* a0x20 Because almost everything in the store is $1.00, there is little to no signage that draws attention to the store brand products.

Call attention to store brands

One of the biggest missteps retailers make when merchandising store brand household cleaners is limiting their placement to the shelf, states Paul Myers, vice president of retail sales for Rockline Industries, Sheboygan, Wis., instead of dedicating end caps or side-wing displays to them.

While it may be true that shelf space comes at a premium price, if a store brand is launched with limited shelf exposure, the results will also be limited, says Tim McCarthy, vice president of sales for New York-based Eurotab USA.

So really, retailers should be using every in-store advantage possible to market store brand products, including shelf talkers and floor displays. They also should create a billboard effect by blocking store brand products on the shelf, says Steve Berry, founder and CEO of Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Greenblendz.

Retailers could take it a step further, says Rishi Raj, an independent retail consultant working with Merenberg, Germany-based ana Aqualine, by running promotions similar to national brands' on store brand cleaners.

"Why can't the retailer put a program together through which they promote [store brand] products using their own funding?" he asks. "After all, they own the brand."

Kimberly Milstead, assistant product marketing manager for Clean Ones Corp. of Portland, Ore., agrees that promotions are worth the work.

"Consumers love a good value; so price-driven offers such as coupons, mail-in-rebates and temporary price reductions are excellent methods to boost sales, gain trial of new products and drive repeat purchasing behaviors," she says.

And of course, packaging plays a critical role in attracting the consumer's eye, Myers says. Packaging provides the first impression to the consumer of the product's quality and ability to perform. The store brand cannot look inferior to the leading national brand in any way.
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Author:Escobar, Michal Christine
Publication:Progressive Grocer's Store Brands
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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