Bathroom Cleaners Clean Up

November 7, 2005

While some categories slip in the household cleaner market, the bathroom cleaner segment continues to shine. Marketers are fighting for household cleaning dollars with promises of performance, convenience and comfort.

Bathroom Cleaners Clean Up

While some categories slip in the household cleaner market, the bathroom cleaner segment continues to shine. Marketers are fighting for household cleaning dollars with promises of performance, convenience and comfort.

Consumers want an all-purpose cleaner that makes their homes smell nice as it kills unseen bacteria that lurk on countertops and floors. At least that's what the marketers of household cleaning products are saying in regard to the current market. For marketers and industry watchers of these products, the buzzwords are "all-purpose," "value-added," "fresh, clean scents" and "anti-bacterial."

In the past year, marketers of household cleaning products have received mixed data about industry growth. Bathroom cleaner sales were strong but floor and kitchen cleaner sales dropped, according to Information Resources, Inc., Chicago for the 52 weeks ending Aug. 23, 1998. The bathroom cleaner segment is the healthiest; dollar sales increased 21.7% and unit sales rose 16%.

By brand, Tilex from Clorox holds the biggest market share at 21% and its dollar sales rose 30.7%. Another strong performer was Shower Power. The brand's sales increased nearly 14%, which helped the product grab the No. 9 spot in dollar sales. However, other brands didn't fare as well, according to IRI. Sales of Tough Act fell 40.6%, Simple Green dropped 21.6% and Comet fell 12.4%.

Dollar sales rose 6.3% within the counter/window cleaner category, but unit sales were up just 1% during the same time period. Leading the way was Windex. Its sales rose 14.9% and the brand now controls about 33% of the market. Fantastik, private label brands and Clean Up also registered sales growth, but sales of Glass Plus, Cinch and Lysol fell.

Dollar sales of floor and wall cleaners dropped .4%, but unit sales were off 5.5%. Pine Sol is the segment leader, controlling 29.4% (dollar share) of the market. Pine Sol's dollar sales rose 4.5% during the period, but the biggest jump was recorded by Spic'n Span at 8.1%. Meanwhile sales of Lysol, Clean Up, Murphy's and Lestoil fell.

In the sink/cleaner category, dollar sales fell 7.8% and unit sales dropped 11.3%. Ajax was the only brand to increase its sales and that gain was a scant .9%. Brands hardest hit included Lysol, Brillo, Smart Scrub and Clean Up. Soft Scrub still holds nearly 40% of the market, although its sales fell 3.5%.

Despite the disparity in segment sales, Joyce Sredinicki, vice president of marketing, household products at Church & Dwight summarized that "the market has its ups and down but it still remains a pretty stable market."

The household cleaning market in the U.S. is best characterized as mature, according to Euromonitor, with several principal players all fighting for market share.

The poor performance in the retail sales value of the household cleaning agents market in the U.S. stems from these items' position as low-margin, lost-cost, traffic-building products in retail outlets. According to Euromonitor, consumers are demanding cleaning products which effectively and efficiently fulfill their cleaning requirements at the lowest possible price. To compete for consumer demand, U.S. household cleaning agent manufacturers have lowered prices and added value to their products. New formulations are constantly being introduced onto store shelves, refelecting the companies' desire to differentiate themselves from competitors and gain the cleaning products expenditure of the American consumer. The result has been intense price competition, which has effectively thwarted any private label threat to the major manufacturers' market positions. The cost of this strategy has resulted in achieving little growth in nominal terms and a declining markert value in real terms, noted Euromonitor.

In an effort to maintain market share, companies have been employing comparative and nostalgic advertising to get their message to the consumer. Comparative ads enable marketers to demonstrate the superior cleaning performance of their product versus the leading national brand.

On the other hand, nostalgic advertising avoids hard science and tries to lure customers with an "I-remember-Mama" pitch. This allows the company to play on the brand loyalty of the consumer. But today most consumers have little allegiance to particular brands.

In general, consumers are interested in how much bang they can get for their buck and how fast a product gets the job done.

Easy To Use
"With a woman's time being consumed by work, childcare, and other demands, convenience is an important lifestyle dynamic that has prompted new product development in the household cleaning market," said Marvin Matises, president Galileo Idea Group, Naperville, IL, a new product concept development company.

"Although women are busy, they still want a clean home. This is reflected in the introduction of new, multi-task household cleaning products. And these products are leveraging germ killing as a signal for superior or complete cleaning perceptions," said Mr. Matises.

All-purpose cleaners are also emerging as a major force on the market as consumers try to simplify household chores. Still, niche products can find an audience if they are truly effective. That's what happened a few ago when Automation launched Clean Shower. Today, even with nine competitors directly attacking Clean Shower, Bob Black president and co-owner of Automation, remains pleased with recent sales results. "Historically the company has had a 20% growth rate on a monthly basis. This has kept up through July of 1998," said Mr. Black.

Automation's Clean Shower currently markets two products: the original, which cleans tile and fiberglass, and Clean Shower for Plastic Showers and Glass, which cleans acrylics, multi-piece wall kits, plastic showers and polystyrene.

In the coming year, the company will launch two new products that have yet to be determined, according to Mr. Black. But while Automation waits for 1999, other companies have already expanded their product lines.

Reckitt and Colman has launched Lysol Mist Away Daily Shower Cleaner which cleans without scrubbing, rinsing or wiping and helps to prevent the buildup of soap scum and mildew stains. The product also deodorizes bathroom surfaces. Lysol Mist Away Daily Shower Cleaner works on tile and acrylic and is available in a convenient refill.

Get Those Germs
The biggest trend in the market is the use of antibacterial agents in the household cleaning products. Carolyn Forte, assistant director of the Good Housekeeping Institute, New York, N.Y., said that household cleaning producers are just starting to catch up to the trend. "It is a hot-button issue for consumers," said Ms. Forte.

Product lines that have been cited for their expansion into the germ warfare arena include the Pine Sol Anti-Bacterial spray cleaner. Lysol has also added "Antibacterial Action" to its flagship disinfectant spray.

SC Johnson has extended the Windex brand into the antibacterial category in an effort to meet consumer needs. According to Marilyn Blood SC Johnson's associate marketing public relations manager, U.S. consumer products, Windex Antibacterial product "gives the consumer the cleaning power of Windex while fighting germs. The major advantage is that it just wipes down."

With Lysol Continuous Action toilet bowl cleaner offering consumers germ-killing attributes, Reckitt & Colman is betting that consumers will go with a brand that they can trust. The company is offering the convenience of a drop-in tablet and long-lasting performance. The product is the first automatic bowl cleaner that R&C feels is worthy of the Lysol brand name and kills 99.9% of germs in the toilet bowl water after each flush as it cleans and deodorizes, according to the marketer.

Although no plans are set to launch any new products or extend its current line, Amy Kiss, Benckiser's associate product manager for hard surface cleaners did say that the company may enter the disinfectants category and is looking into launching a line in the prevention market.

While household cleaners do a good job of cleaning and disinfecting, Ms. Forte said companies must do a better job explaining how to use their products correctly. "Consumers don't understand that they may have to keep the product on the surface for 10 minutes before they wipe down. Companies should teach this, but they are not taking the extra steps (to educate consumers.)"

Sweet Smell of Success

While anti-bacterial additives may be beneficial to human health, a product's fragrance can often be the deciding factor when a consumer purchase a household cleaner. "It is a nice way to appeal to buyers to make their life more pleasant. It helps to improve their quality of life," said Ms. Forte.

Amway's disinfectant and bathroom cleaner sales continue to grow and company executives said they have noticed a crossover of aromatherapy products into the household cleaner category.

In the future, the company anticipates a continuation of the use of disinfectants and antibacterial products, aromatherapy and more convenient multi-use products. Earlier this year, Amway released a new disinfectant cleaner and sanitizer, Pursue disinfectant cleaner, which is said to be recording strong sales.

Also in the aromatherapy area, Reckitt & Colman launched Lysol Soft Powder scent that has a blend of classic floral wrapped in the warmth of amber powder and woodsy vanilla, according to the company. Packaged in a mint green color, Soft Powder scent taps into the consumer trend toward "cocooning." People are spending more time at home and soft powder scent is comforting. Ms. Forte said that companies should take advantage of using aromatherapy, stating that this is "not a passing trend."

In The End, It's Got To Work

Ms. Forte also noted that "consumers want easy-to-use products." To meet their demands, companies are now coming out with more consumer friendly-products. At SC Johnson, one of the easy-to-use products is Pledge Wood & Glass, which is a cleaner that works on wood or glass.

Amway has also released new and improved SA8 with Bioquest detergent powder. This product contains an "exploding crystals" additive, which guarantees powder solubility in all water temperatures and leaves no detergent residue on clothes.

These attributes are important given that more people are washing in cooler temperatures and overloading their washers with dirty clothes. Next month Amway is launching LOC towelettes, a convenient version of the company's nearly 40-year-old LOC multi-purpose cleaner. The company calls LOC a versatile cleaner strong enough to clean floors, gentle enough to clean hands and versatile enough to treat stains on clothing. Amway will also launch extensions of SA8 laundry line.

According to Reckitt & Colman, research shows that more than 50% of U.S. households have two or more bathrooms. Thus the new Lysol product Lysol Continuous Action toilet bowl cleaner is packaged in a twin pack.

What Lies Ahead

According to Mr. Matises, the future of the household cleaner category lies in "the continued introduction of more convenient, time-saving cleaning aids that involve small/single use application, convenient delivery systems and longer lasting formulations." But, at the end of the day, according to Ms. Forte, there will only be one thing that matters: authenticity. "Consumers want convenience at a good price," she said. "But, it's got to work and it's got to work the first time."

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