Cleanliness is the new friendliness

Thanks to the coronavirus, everybody in the UK is thinking of hygiene and safety – with implications for cleaning products

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Photo: iStock

Last year the clothes-care market, excluding other cleaning products, stood at almost £120 million in the Convenience channel and was outpacing the total market by growing at over six per cent a year [Nielsen].

This year the category has been roiled, although in a revenue-positive way, by the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. Hygiene products from loo-rolls to detergents and sanitizers, floor wipes and cleaning fluids, gloves and sprays, have all been sold out or in short supply.

Suddenly, the whole world has become interested in hygiene and health, adding to cleanliness the implicit reassurance of health – a connection that was always there but had nothing like the immediacy or impact that it has gained over the past few months.

Now to be clean is to be safe, and that will have a big psychological impact on what and how much you sell in this category, so it is best to be prepared with the most-wanted products and the canniest merchandising.

Scrub up for safety

Expectations about public spaces and the demand for available safe hygiene solutions are higher than ever before, explains says Anna Königson Koopmans, Marketing Director Essity Professional Hygiene – which delivers the Tork brand.

“COVID-19 has shifted the way we approach hygiene in-store. For independent retailers, there are key areas where hygiene will impact the day-to-day,” says Koopmans.

The company has decided to take a leading role in promoting public safety in its own area of expertise – keeping things squeaky clean – by developing a set of hygiene “tool-kits” of methods and advice for different professions and sectors. Along with specialised kits for industry, food-service, education and others, Tork kas developed one specially for groceries and pharmacies, which can be downloaded for free.

“COVID-19 is shaping new attitudes and behaviours among people,” says Koopmans. “With over 50 years of professional hygiene experience, Tork has the knowledge and products needed to help independent retailers get ready for business in the new hygiene standard. The Tork Safe at Work toolkit for Groceries will help you create a safer in-store experience for both employees and customers.”

With the anticipation that consumer demand will grow beyond household products sold in store, and that consumers will look more closely at the hygiene practices of a store when returning, the Safe at Work toolkit is designed  to provide independent retailers with resources that are free to download to upgrade their approach and future-proof their business.

Photo: iStock

Laura Marsden, Product Manager at Marigold, agrees that germophobia is driving sales and has the figures to back it up.

“Not surprisingly, one of the biggest trends we have seen in the past 12 weeks is combatting the spread of germs and bacteria, and as a result we’ve seen a huge uplift in sales for the gloves category (for both durable, household gloves and disposable gloves),” she reports. “Marigold has seen a +72 per cent uplift in gloves sales in the latest 12 weeks (vs. the same time period a year ago).”

“This year we have seen a dramatic shift in customer hygiene habits with a growing awareness of how bacteria and viruses can spread,” agrees Emily Gallagher, sales manager at eco-cleaning products producer Bio D. “Following this, and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in sales of our hand-washes and sanitising products in convenience.  Our products are perfectly placed for those doing a local top-up shop, or as an impulse purchase when browsing for other goods.”

The increases in demand seem to be across the board, and much of this will predictably be in impulse, as people will be buying from wherever they are able. And buying locally as well.

The planet needs cleaning and maintaining, too

Added to the new hygiene protocol are other consumer trends – such as sustainability and a concern over pollution – that are driving the kinds of cleaning products sought by and provided to the consumer. We are at a crossroads where consumers want not just more and better products, but products of a different, visibly socially-aware kind.

Paul Hargreaves, chief executive at Cotswold Fayre says: “Consumers are undoubtedly conscious of purchasing more sustainable products, and too much plastic, with many looking for alternative brands and products to reflect this concern.  We’ve seen bigger brands looking to refine their environmental credentials, for example offering refills for larger single-use plastic bottles, and brands like Method and Ecover are leading the charge in grocery.

Charlie Beevor

At Unilever they are clearly taking sustainability seriously and increasingly working elements of it into both manufacturing processes and products. Charlie Beevor, Vice President, Home Care, Unilever UKI, says that they are looking to tackle consumer concerns head on.

“Sustainability will continue to shake up the category throughout 2020 as consumers look for products that are kinder to the environment,” he says. “We believe our consumers shouldn’t have to choose between the best cleaning and laundry products and the impact on the planet, which is why we have moved towards using 100% recycled plastic in packaging across Comfort Intense and Perfume Deluxe, and Persil Capsule Tubs.”

This concern has driven development in products such as refill packs – the Cifecorefill which launched last year, for example, has a bottle (and a trigger) that will last many years. “Through this innovation we’re aiming to remove 1.5 million plastic bottles from the waste stream. The response from consumers so far has been fantastic and a success we’re looking to build on further in 2020,” says Beevor.

Bigger sales mean new products

Cleaning products were climbing in sales even before the coronavirus swept across the globe, and in its wake part of the “new normal” will be a set of standards for business and foodservice premises that will inevitable influence domestic expectations of cleanliness – in clothes, crockery and ball kinds of crevices, household and more personal!

This is good for the convenience channel because people are shopping more locally. That in itself is safer and more “hygienic” than shuffling around big-box stores full of crowds – and Bo Dinnewell, UK & international accounts manager at Ecozone, says: “Due to Covid-19, there has been an upturn in sales within both the convenience store and health-food-store sector, as these stores have remained open throughout this uncertain period. People have been relying more and more on convenience stores, choosing to shop locally due to large queues evident at supermarkets. We expect this trend to continue way after the coronavirus has gone, and people have acclimatised to this way of purchasing.”

Cleanliness and healthiness blends into wellbeing (a massive and growing market) very easily, and products that cross from the area of fragrance into relaxation, purity of atmosphere and calm, will all have an effect on consumer demand and behaviour.

“Our figures show that we are a nation obsessed with fragrance,” says Unilever’s Beevor. “Every time a new and exciting variant comes out, consumers are ready to snap it up. Take our Surf Coconut Bliss, it’s only been on the market for a year and yet it’s already our second biggest variant.”

It is the same story at Bloo, which is launching new premium rim blocks inspired by fine fragrances. Gone are the days when respectable toilets smelled like hospitals.

“The Deluxe range has been developed with the expertise of perfumers to formulate luxurious scents that emulate fine fragrances,” commented Bloo spokesperson Edeje Onwude.“The rim blocks also work to keep the toilet clean while combating limescale to create a ‘best-seat-in-the-house’ experience.”

It is more Ralph Lauren than Lysol and has been “inspired by fine fragrances” and perfected by Bloo’s in-house perfume studio. It is available in two variants: Delicate Magnolia and Magic Moonflower, in turn inspired by Dolce and Gabbana’s Dolce Garden and Prada’s Luna Rosa Sport, respectively.

The new rim blockslast up to 240 flushescome with a patented technology which has been developed to provide long-lasting delicate scents, keeping the loo fresher for longer as it tackles odours at the source. It also helps to protect against limescale and creates a dirt-free toilet bowl.

Another example is Airpure, which has just introduced a range of five new scents for its Wax Melts that cleaning fans (!) apparently are mad for. Designed to be used with wax warmers and burners, they burn for up to 150 hours per pack, cost just £1 and can be bought wholesale from Rayburn Trading. The new scents are: Pink Magnolia Sandalwood & Oud Midnight Glow Raspberry Bliss – and simply, Romance.

Stay clean hygiene

Safety and cleanliness combined, in a retail setting as well as a domestic one, is speeding NPD innovation. Specialists Sofidel have developed a brand new hand-towel solution equally at home in shops or … homes.

The “Nicky Defend” is a unique disposable hand towel, which is soft but strong and includes antibacterial agents to help reduce the spread of germs to the user and others.

A great advantage is that unlike other “heavy duty” antibacterial towels, the Nicky Defend is soft and dissolvable, so if it is accidentally thrown in the toilet it can be flushed away.

Sales Manager Richard Neave describes it as a soft 100 per cent biodegradable towel made with advanced technology that enables paper to dissolve harmlessly in water. “We are really proud of the collaborative relationship with our partners in wholesale and convenience as we continue to innovate and introduce new products,” he says.“Nicky Defend marks more innovative growth within Sofidel. Not only have we created a bespoke product but have also reacted promptly to current market requirements.”

On a more food-to-go convenience retailer note, the fact that FTG is growing so fast in Convenience is leading to food-service-style kitchen hygiene appearing on the roster of responsibilities for independents. Surfaces and hands need proper, regular wiping down and what usually works is a solution of 70 per cent or more alcohol – which comes with a host of drawbacks.

Nelson, who make dish- and glass-washing machinery, has expanded its alcohol-free Supernova sanitiser range in light of the long awaited re-opening of pubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels, but it could also be perfect for store-owners who sell more than just pre-packed sandwiches.

That’s because Supernova nukes the Covid-19 virusin just 60 seconds and remains effective for very long periods – up to two hours on hands and two weeks on surfaces. It also hates bacteria of all kinds.

“It works by both physically and chemically damaging the bacterial cells rather than affecting their metabolism,” says owner John Nelson. “Also, because the blend of biocides has different modes of action, pathogens will not become used to, or resistant to, Supernova over time.”

It is also alcohol-free, which has many advantages. For example, effective alcohol gels must contain in excess of 70 per cent ethanol – which can irritate skin, causing hands to crack and bleed. Alcohol gels do not kill spores or non-enveloped viruses, whereas Supernova is effective against spores and viruses such as Clostridium Difficile and Norovirus as well as SARS-CoV-2.

Alcohol gels provide no residual protection, either. As soon as you have washed down with it, germs can once again take up residence on your skin or the counter or cooker. And non-alcohol is non-inflammable, of course.

One way to keep irritants off your skin is gloves– another commodity in short supply of late. The growth in Marigold’s sales is astonishing. “With protection a key focus, the disposable gloves segment has also grown +147 per cent in the latest 12 weeks vs. the same period last year,”  says Laura Marsden. “The household gloves segment has grown by over £4million.” It is clearly a vital product to stock.

“Marigold Extra Life Kitchen Gloves remain the UK’s No.1 glove type, with size medium taking the top spot as the UK’s best-selling household glove,” she says, before adding:

“We are currently rolling out a packaging upgrade across the Marigold cloths and scourers range, designed to make product selection in-store easier. The upgrade gives increased prominence to key USPs and product-type descriptors, as we know that purchase decisions are often made in a matter of seconds for this category.”

Consumer trends

On average, people buy laundry products 14 times a year and 94 per cent of households buy detergent and stain-removalsolutions, while a massive 71 per cent buy fabric conditioner.

“Fabric conditioners are wellloved by our fragrance-obsessed consumers, with a quarter of our Comfort range now offering full-on fragrance in ultra-concentrated formats,” says Beevor. “What’s even better is that consumers need only use a small dose to get the same result, meaning smaller bottles, less water and a reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions.”

That preponderance of buyers (it is hard to believe that six per cent of households DON’T buy detergent) is not going to change any time soon – in fact, the last laundromats may soon disappear from the land if social distancing remains for any length of time.

Within the laundry category, powder detergent remains the biggest section of the Convenience market but newer “wet” formats – liquids, gel and capsules – are driving the growth in “main wash”, presenting a great opportunity for retailers who can trade on the sustainable associations of the innovative, water-saving washing methods

In general, most convenience stores stock products for main wash but risk losing out on potential sales of other formats, such as liquids and capsules, as well as products for other elements of laundry, such as ironing enhancers, stain removers and fabric softeners if they are not fully aware of their shoppers’ requirements, suggests Unilever’s Partners for Growth programme.

It concludes that Convenience retailers would benefit from broadening their range to suit a greater spectrum of needs. Powders are still the largest sector of the market, accounting for 35.3 per cent of value sales of the £82million fabric-cleaning market in Convenience.

Furthermore, lower affluence shoppers prefer powder formats and fragrance brands such as Surf or Bold, while more affluent ones More affluent ones prefer more convenient formats – liquids and capsules.

This might have to do with traditional attitudes and age demographic profile (pensioners sticking with what they know) rather than income.However, shoppers have been quick to adopt liquids, gels and capsules which, combined, now have a 53 per cent value share of that market [Nielsen].

Convenience is still king as capsule sales continue to grow, according to Unilever. “Busy lifestyles are the main reason behind this switch, so we are investing in our capsules range with the ambition to grow our share of the market through a multimillion marketing campaign across TV and social,” says Beevor.

The revamped Persil 3-in-1 capsules are designed to help retailers capitalise on this growing opportunity. In addition to the powerful stain removal, the new and improved formula contains bobble-reducing technology and revives colour, too

As washing machine technology advances, and the water required for a wash decreases, concentrated liquid formats are becoming the most effective format. Likewise, the quick-wash cycle or washing at lower, 30⁰ or 40⁰ temperatures, are becoming increasingly popular tactics as consumers try to save energy and money.

This is another opportunity that retailers can capitalise on, as is the gentleness of the new formulation that allow clothes to last longer

“Take Comfort for instance,” says Unilever’s Beevor. “We know that fast fashion is placing a major strain on the environment so through our Long Live Clothes campaign we’ve been educating people on the importance of looking after clothes. The campaign, which included a partnership with Oxfam, shows consumers how by extending the life of clothes we can lower our impact on the planet, through reducing the amount of clothes going to landfill. In 2020, we will continue to focus on the importance of clothes care through our communication.”

It is the combination of sustainability concerns and innovative product development that Paul Hargreaves is seeing in his wholesaling business. “As a first for us at Cotswold Fayre, we’re pleased to be offering a range of natural household cleaning products to all retailers, that are good for the environment… and cleaning too!” It is good to have well-intentioned products that can now do the job as well as their industrial-chemical counterparts.

As of last month Paul revealed that his top sellers in household cleaning lines in Convenience were from Ecozone (particularly Anti-Bacterial Multi Surface Wipes – 8 x 240g, Washing Up Liquid Sensitive – 12 x 500ml and 3-in-1 Bathroom Cleaner Spray – 6 x 500ml) and Bio D (All Purpose Spray 500ml – 12 x 500ml and Grapefruit washing up liquid – 12 x 750ml).

The Bio-D range taps straight in to the sustainability trend and offers customers products made from ethically sourced natural ingredients without a premium price,  with all packaging made from 100% UK recycled and biodegradable material.

It’s a sign of a future that has just arrived.