On the face of it, bathroom product sales have remained steady and most countries in Europe’s Big 5 registered some growth in 2007 due to much new product innovation. However, any growth has been very slim and Italy actually slipped by 1.1% in value terms. It seems that there may be trouble brewing below the surface as countries struggle to keep their head above water in the face of continuing economic uncertainty in Europe.
France’s bathroom products category did manage a rise of 4.4% in 2007, which was a more promising set of figures than 2006, to reach $908 million (at historical exchange rates). There was especially strong growth in the mass and pharmacy channels, which were up 7.5% and 9.5% respectively to $663 million and $108 million. On the other hand, the selective channel did not have such good news to report, slipping by a dismal 24.9% to $46 million. The direct sales channel also recorded a loss, though not as worrisome, of 2.5% to fall below $90 million.
Bath and shower products make up the vast majority of the French bathroom products category and the market was possibly given a boost by the vast levels of innovation that swept the country in 2007 via a plethora of new product launches.
Many French companies have gone down the route of organically certifying their products to broaden their appeal with ethical French consumers. In the mass market, supermarket retailer Carrefour launched Agir Bio, a certified organic skin care range which includes an aloe vera shower gel, while Sephora launched Green Connection, an “awakening body gel” that has both Ecocert and Cosmebio organic certification. The premium channel, too, got a boost from organic developments with the launch of an organic body care line from Florame. The range includes shower gels, body lotions, foam baths and bath salts and has also been certified by both official bodies.
Tepid Gains in Most Countries
Meanwhile, Germany reported that its bathroom product sales increased by 3.4% in 2008 to $1.1 billion—still positive news, though nothing to get excited about. Soaps and syndet turnover registered a slight dip of 0.2% to $289 million. Bath foams, salts and shower gels climbed to $855 million, which was a small rise of 1.4% based on 2007’s figures. In terms of market share in Germany, shower products accounted for 58% of the market, bath additives stood at 19.3% and soaps at 22.7%. The fact that shower products hold such a large share of the market also means the value of the category is at a huge $496 million, up 1.5% on 2007.
Personal cleansers that highlight spa benefits or natural elements stand a chance of weathering the economic downturn.
German natural cosmetics and toiletries company Kneipp also launched several bath products, starting with its Urmeer Bath Salts (Badesalz) in January, followed closely by its Almond Milk Bath Powder in February. It also relaunched its Almond Blossom Gentle Body Wash in March and did the same with the Evening Primrose Oil variant in September. Kneipp products are made from natural plant-based ingredients and essential oils to moisturize and gently nourish skin.
Keep Your Head Above Water
It was not good news for Italy as its bathroom products sector struggled to stay afloat, posting a disappointing decline on 2006’s figures. According to industry association Unipro, the market sank 1.1% to approximately $1 billion in 2007. Breaking the category down further, liquid soap was the only sector to post an increase, inching up by a minute 0.8% to just less than $200 million. In other categories the situation was rather worrying with losses all around. Soaps and syndets fell 3.1% and bath and shower products (including gels washes, salts and oils) fell 1.1%—although, as this category covers much ground, it still accounted for a healthy $622 million in value terms.
Despite the overall bad news, Italian consumers had plenty of new products to buy. Indeed, manufacturers provided a healthy amount of innovation to try and turn consumers’ heads.
Nivea (Beiersdorf) launched two new bath soaps based on milk and rice. Happy Time contains bamboo milk and Lotus Beauty contains traditional oriental rice oil that makes the soap foam particularly well. The company also launched Crème Soft, the new version of its solid soap with added almond oil for everyday use. Almond oil is also at the heart of the new hand soap Rich Almond Oil, featuring apricot and milk proteins.
The Spanish bathroom products category did make gains, albeit small ones, in both value and volume terms, rising 5% and 2% respectively, according to AC Nielsen. Sales for the entire category totaled $327 million at retail. The Spanish bathroom products market is very segmented and the most aggressive brands in terms of advertising and promotion tend to do best at retail. The top advertisers in this area are Puig with 29.3% of expenditure, followed by Sarah Lee, 27.7% and Unilever, 20.6%.
The increased popularity of bathroom spa products led to a number of new launches in 2008. Spanish perfumer Álvarez Gómez developed Balneario, a spa line with 11 products grouped into two categories—Aguacalma and Aguavital—which combine natural ingredients to provide a total spa experience.
Aguacalma combines ginkgo biloba, Centella asiatica, colloidal oatmeal, mallow, grape seed oil, marigold and avocado extracts along with grapeseed and almond oil to soothe skin while relaxing body and mind. In contrast, Aguavital revitalizes the senses through a formula composed of shea butter, ginseng, wheatgerm, mimosa, and grape and orange seed extracts among other ingredients.
No Room for Complacency
Lastly, it was more uneventful news from the UK where the bathroom sector did post growth—though a hardly noticeable 0.5%—to $1.1 billion in 2008.
In volume terms, units rose 0.7% to reach 162.56 million while pack volume increased 1.3% to 460.72 million. Shower products, including body wash, still hold the lion’s share of the UK market at 47.9%. Liquid soaps stood at 18.9% and traditional soaps at 10.8%. The rest of the share was made up by other sectors such as bath cubes and salts. According to data from TNS Worldpanel, the UK market is dominated by branded lines, which rose 1.9% on the previous year to account for nearly 81% of sales.
The UK consumer has been partial to spa relaxation and British spa brand Elemis did its best to meet this need. Its exotic Frangipani Monoi Bath & Shower Cream was added to the successful Exotics range. The product features a blend of tiarie flowers, which have been soaked in coprah oil and fragranced with frangipani flowers.
Another spa favorite, Champneys, was also busy in 2008, launching its Perfect Sleep Bath Milk, which reportedly eases tension and stress while an oat-based cleanser conditions the skin. The company also created a diverse range of shower gels falling into four categories—Revitalizing, Pampering, Energizing and Comforting. The revitalizing shower gel is the Aqua Therapy Revitalising Body Wash, which uses tiny beads of algae extracts that burst upon contact with the skin. The pampering body wash is the Skin Softening Rose Body Wash, which contains moisturizing plant sugars that soften and smooth the skin. For the energizing category, Champneys created the Citrus Glow Energizing Shower Gel that contains natural plant sugars to boost hydration levels.
The bathroom products market in Europe just about managed to stay buoyant in the past year with only Italy slipping below the waterline. The other four countries did post minimal growth but none of them should sit back on their laurels just yet.
Two key trends in this sector have been that of natural and spa products. Manufacturers should focus on these sectors as product innovation seems to be the only thing keeping this market afloat.