Mintel says that 90% of households in the UK own a washing machine, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that stocking laundry products automatically benefits retailers.

According to IRI, sales in the laundry category are down 19% in the convenience channel as consumers increasingly take advantage of supermarket price wars on big-name products. “Consumers are looking for the best deal,” explains Partners for Growth manager Kimberley Green. “While they accept they often pay a premium for the convenience of shopping locally, they are less inclined to do this on large items such as laundry.”

Green suggests that c-store retailers who really want to embrace the category should stock pricemarked packs. Partners for Growth’s recent research reveals that nearly half (48%) of shoppers said a pricemarked pack encourages them to buy, while 45% of store staff said they see more price-marked packs sold on the shop floor than regular products.

Green notes that many c-stores are ignoring the biggest trend to hit the laundry category in recent years the rise of concentrated liquid formulations. “Consumers have been quick to adopt the new format, yet they often fail to find these at their local convenience store. While they can require a higher initial outlay from the retailer or wholesaler, these new formats are driving value in the market.”

These products, such as Ariel Excel Gel or Persil Small & Mighty, are also attractive to the 48% of c-store shoppers who walk to the store and who don’t want to have to lug home huge packs.

“Laundry liquids are more compact, offering better shelf efficiency while driving profits for retailers due to high product margins,” says Persil brand manager Dani Ross.

“Concentrated liquids are the fastest growing format in laundry and will continue to be the driver in the category as customers move from traditional powders into more modern liquids.”

Concentrated products also allow manufacturers to marry clear eco-friendly benefits, such as less packaging, with a value-for-money message about the fact that concentrated products last longer and don’t need warm washes.

According to Mintel, two-thirds of new laundry products featured environmental commitments in 2009 and 2010, which means that the original eco-pioneers are having to up their game.

This year Ecover, which has been making eco-friendly cleaning products for 30 years now, has refreshed its laundry range to include concentrated products in smaller sizes.

“A key trend is the popularity of concentrated products,” says Ecover brand manager Emma Bennetts. “This is reflected in our npd with the new concentrated powder formula. The relaunch also allows consumers to make easy like-for-like comparisons against other products.”

Although the cleaning market may be a crowded one, the fact that c-stores face price challenges from the multiples needn’t put retailers off. As Mathers points out, stocking the right household cleaning range has the potential to transform your shop into a destination store. So when customers do run out of washing up liquid and the like, they’ll be coming straight to your door.

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