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With all the buzz around food to go and fresh & chilled, retailers need to ensure they don’t neglect the convenience categories that are indispensable for their customers. Toby Hill speaks to three retailers to find out how to make sure your household and laundry range boosts basket spend and builds customer loyalty
Channel category manager, Unilever
What trends should retailers aim to adapt to cash in on the laundry category?
Concentrated liquids are becoming increasingly important, yet shoppers often fail to find these products in their local convenience store.
These formats satisfy a number of key customer requirements – such as environmental concerns, improved fragrance and reduced packaging – with a pack size that is highly suited to convenience.
Secondly, don’t forget to ensure you can provide for shoppers who believe they have sensitive skin, with non-bio liquid formats as well as ‘pure’ fabric conditioners, as these shoppers won’t switch to ‘bio’ or ‘fragrance’ products and you will lose the sale if there is nothing suitable for them to buy.
How can retailers effectively merchandise household cleaning products to drive additional sales?
Divide products into areas of the home. Customers tend to shop for household cleaning products by rooms in their home, so we recommend retailers divide the fixture into areas of the home and keep similar formats – wipes, trigger bottles and so on – together in those areas.
Go for smaller portable packs. Convenience shoppers are more likely to be older, and 60% of them walk to the stores, so small pack sizes are vital. Place large bulky packs at the bottom of the fixture.
Cross-merchandise for bigger spend. Put cleaning tools such as cloths and sponges next to items they will be used with, such as bleach or bath cleaner.
How have you adapted your range to suit recent trends?
Household and laundry can be a bit of a forgotten department and I hadn’t paid it much attention for a while, but we’re planning a mini refit and, as part of it, I’ve realised we can condense our laundry range. We’ve found that our shoppers don’t tend to buy powders – they usually buy liquids or tablets instead, so there’s no need to offer a range of products in all three sub-categories. Ariel is our biggest seller, followed by Persil, so we’ll probably keep liquids and tablets of those brands. Aside from those, we have a value brand, Easy, which some of our customers go out of their way to buy, and it is probably the one powder we won’t get rid of.
How do you use promotions to drive sales in the category?
People are surprisingly sensitive to price in this category, especially with laundry products, and they’re on the lookout for good deals. We use all the promotions we can for our branded products and see what sells through. We distribute flyers with upcoming promotions on and find that some people will look at the small print and wait until the promotion starts until they buy the product they want, even if doing so means waiting for another week. That works fine for us, of course. Otherwise, some people will just go for the Happy Shopper value products, which are an essential economy alternative to the major brands.
We aim to make margins of more than 20% in household and laundry, to make sure products justify the shelf space. It’s a category in which customers are very responsive to price-marking – I think they see these products as items you’d usually buy in a supermarket, and so are a bit suspicious if they seem overpriced. So, if there’s the option of price-marking, I’ll always go for it, to provide that reassurance, even if it cuts into our margins a little.
How do you compete with neighbouring stores?
We face a lot of competition from bargain stores and discounters – we’re right in the middle of Asda, Lidl, B&M and Wilko. This means there’s no point in us stocking 10kg Daz for £5 – if that’s what people are looking for, they’ll just go to the bargain stores. We’re a convenience store, so we focus on the products people come to us to buy. As a result, I’ve consolidated my range. We used to have 10 bays of household and cleaning products and have gone down to three; we used to have 12 types of washing-up liquid and now just do Fairy and an own-brand one; we used to do four bleaches and three bathroom sprays, and have gone down to one of each. Instead, we have more space to dedicate to higher-margin categories such as food to go and fresh & chilled. It suits our set-up.
How do you decide which household cleaning products to stock?
We currently have a good range of household cleaning items. Flash is our biggest-selling brand, and we have specific products for bathrooms, kitchens and so on. I think we can cut down on one or two of them, however, and concentrate on antibacterial lines, which are what everyone seems to be into now. The same is the case with washing-up liquids – our main seller is Fairy, which we have in three fragrances, as well as Persil and Happy Shopper. It’s good to offer diverse prices, but do we really need three Fairy fragrances? It’s a category that’s long overdue a good hard look, and I imagine I’ll find some easy ways to consolidate, by keeping Fairy Original and Persil Lemon but getting rid of Fairy Lemon and Persil Original, for example.
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