With competition from the discounters growing, offering good-value household products in appropriate pack sizes is key for c-store retailers

Nobody wants to approach a sink-full of dirty dishes and find the washing-up liquid’s down to its last drop, and nobody wants to face the awkward moment when the toilet paper’s down to its last sheet – that’s why convenience stores need to be stocked up with household essentials.

“It is really important to stock a strong household category, because of the essential nature of the products. Customers come in time and again and make repeated, routine purchases,” says Amit Patel, owner of Belvedere Food and Wine in South East London.

But with so many different formats, scents and sizes now available across a range of laundry products, washing-up liquids, sprays, multi-purpose cleaners and paper products, it can be a challenge for retailers to get their range just right – and sell at the price customers demand.

Cushelle brand manager Sian Dixon says that shoppers are now embarking on more shopping trips to hunt down the best-value products on the market, leading to growth in the discount sector, which has gained market share within the paper categories.

As a result the toilet tissue market remains flat, and lowering prices in the household towels category means it has experienced a -1% decline in value.

Dixon adds: “To help stem the migration to discounters, retailers can rely on brands which are known and trusted. These branded products can drive value sales and repeat purchase.”

For Amit, stocking pricemarked products helps convince shoppers they are getting good value. He says: “How we see it is that everything is value driven now. If customers can’t get the price they expect from you then they will go elsewhere. That’s why we try to stock pricemarked packs where we can, and the same goes for household, paper and cleaning products. It’s why our Euroshopper brand performs so well.”

According to HIM Research & Consulting, the three most important factors to shoppers when buying household items are price, pack size and brand, in that order.

Adam Gray, Intertissue category manager at Sofidel, agrees price is important, but shoppers also want good value. “Having an attractive price point is key, but this must be balanced with having a strong enough quality level to encourage the second purchase much more than capturing the first. Consumers are becoming more savvy and, as a result, POS material needs to be clear and punchy. If you’re going to promise the consumer something, then you need to deliver.”

While getting the pricing strategy right remains one of the biggest drivers to the category, that’s not all there is to it, says Harj Dhasee, owner of Nisa Village Stores in Mickleton. “The price of a product is important, of course, but it isn’t the only factor. It is important that retailers stock big brands because customers want premium brands that they can trust and they know have a reputation of being a quality product. If they can’t get that brand in your store then chances are they will get it elsewhere.

“We stock three big brands of toilet tissue – Cushelle, Andrex and Velvet – so we can offer a choice, but not bombard shoppers. Whenever one is on promotion, it does sell twice as much as any of the other brands, though. We also have cheaper options such as our own label and Nicky, but it really is big brands at good value price points that drive the category.”

For Val Stopp, store manager at the Lawrence Hunt & Co Spar store on Plungington Road, Preston, getting pack sizes right is just as vital as getting the price right.

“Customers tend to go for our larger packs of toilet paper and kitchen towel, because they represent good value for money, and by buying a bit in bulk they can ensure they don’t suddenly run out,” she explains.

“We have a 16-pack of toilet tissue from Luxe that is our most popular line because of its good-value £3 pricemark and quality. I think price really drives the category where paper products are concerned.”

Harj has also noticed that larger packs of toilet paper are most popular. He says: “Customers want big packs, either a nine- or a 12-pack. Those are the sizes that we sell the most of, because these products are household essentials and people don’t want to run out and they stock up a bit on them.”

It is key that retailers stock a variety of different pack sizes, says Dixon, as she believes it is vital that retailers cater for all household sizes and needs. She adds: “When buying paper products, shoppers will either make a top-up purchase via smaller pack sizes, or buy larger pack formats which offer value for money.

“Cushelle four-roll double-roll is the ideal product to stock, as it has double the number of sheets on each roll. It takes up minimal space on the shelf and offers shoppers convenience. Velvet also has two variants, Comfort and Quilted, with both the four-roll and nine-rolls being key sizes to stock. When it comes to Plenty, The Original One two-roll is the ideal pack for convenience retailers to stock.”

Adam Gray points out that there has been a shift towards jumbo- styled rolls with 70-100 sheets on average. “This shift is the reason that Regina Blitz household towel has the number one- and number two-selling SKUs in the kitchen towel category. This trend helps the convenience retailer, who gains from better returns from their shelf space.”

Multipurpose covers all bases

Marigold, the leading washing gloves brand, has introduced an 11-strong range of cloths and scourers to offer customers all-round cleaning solutions.

Key new products include: Marigold Wiper Upper (rrp £1.29 for a two pack), a super-absorbent all-purpose cloth for everyday cleaning; Marigold Oops Away (rrp £1.99 for pack of six), a lightweight and super-absorbent, semi-disposable, all-purpose cloth that stays strong when wet; Marigold Cleaning Me Softly (rrp £1.19 for a two-pack), Teflon approved to remove tough dirt without scratching delicate surfaces; and the Marigold Clean & Gleam (rrp £1 for a two pack), a durable anti-bacterial dual-sided scourer for scrubbing away stubborn dirt and wiping down surfaces.

Laura Burrows, shopper product manager for Marigold, says: “The innovative range uses the latest technology to ensure maximum absorbency and scrubbing power, with minimal effort.

“In the cloths category, all-purpose cloths make up the majority of the market, with semi disposable all-purpose cloths accounting for the largest proportion of this segment.”

Gray says that along with sheets on a roll, shoppers look for other attributes from both their kitchen towel and toilet paper.

“Absorption is still the number one sought-after characteristic of a kitchen towel and softness is still the number one sought after for toilet tissue. In both cases strength is important, but is seen more as a reassurance of quality as opposed to an actual characteristic. That’s why Regina Blitz from a versatile household towel stance, or something like Regina Heart for a strong quality, entry-level pricepoint (PMP £1 for a two-roll pack) are must stocks,” he says.

When it comes to laundry products, Val says the most popular types in her store are the liquid variants, with the newer innovations such as tablets and capsules following behind. “I think there is a big demographic that prefers the simplicity of the capsules and tablets, in particular our large student population in the area, but they perform best when they are on offer or reduced, otherwise liquids are our number one.”

Val acknowledges that the amount of new product innovation in household can make it a tricky category for retailers. “Retailers are tasked with taking risks and working out what works best for them. Some innovation and new quirks work, because there are some customers that fancy a bit of a change or want to try something different.”

Some innovations work better for others, particularly if they are clearly communicated, she says. “This is the case for washing powders and plug-in air fragrances, with new scents, formats and packaging driving more interest to the category,” she explains.

“However, where washing-up liquid is concerned, original formulas perform best and innovations are often a bit flat. We don’t stock lots of different fragrances in washing up liquid because there doesn’t seem to be a demand for them.”

Harj prefers to stick to what customers already know. He explains: “I don’t think that innovation really drives much value into the category, because I think the messaging doesn’t work.”

Amit says that simple merchandising changes can make a lot of difference and help to breathe new life into the category. He says: “We merchandise our fixture so that we offer our customers all the household essentials they need. We stock one or two big brands and then a discount brand for each. We want to give customers a choice but not too much that it becomes an inconvenience.

“Big packs are positioned at the bottom and premium brands above, but it is always the product that is best value for money that sells best.”

Displays that stand out

Spring cleaning took centre stage this month at the Lawrence Hunt & Co Spar store on Plungington Road, Preston, when store manager Val Stopp created a front-of-store stand.

“We have a front-of-house stand that we use for themed displays 
to emphasise a particular product 
or category, and after all the typical Christmas stands had gone down 
I decided to try something a bit different,” 
explains Val.

“I decided to make cleaning the focus because once the new year starts people like to have a big clean or re-stock on cleaning products, or even have a big spring clean, so it seemed a good time to do it. It has paid off because we have sold a lot of washing powders and cleaning sprays in the first week.

“Sometimes it can really pay off to create a dedicated display, and sales can almost double at specific times of the year as a result,” 
she says.