The household essentials category took on a life of its own during the pandemic, with consumers eager to rid their homes of germs with constant cleaning and disinfecting. And in 2022 the hunger for housework remains strong. Dr. Beckmann spokesperson, Susan Fermor says: “We are now fast approaching two years since lockdown was first announced across the UK and it’s fair to say that many people’s lives changed drastically – including consumer habits. Homes have become the hub of people’s day-to-day activities, whether that be personal or professional and with that comes an increased need and desire to keep that space clean. When COVID-19 happened, we saw a huge increase in demand for our cleaning products, notably there was a 231% surge in traffic to our website. This demand has continues, as people look to ensure their home is not only tidy and clean, but it is “COVID-Clean” and we don’t foresee these habits changing any time soon.”
Although household cleaning sales within convenience are down across nearly all areas year-on-year, the category is performing well compared to its pre-covid sales, according to DCS Group, which distributes household products. “Sales of household cleaning products are up significantly vs. pre-pandemic levels in 2019 [Kantar Household excluding Pet – 52 wks ending 11.07.21],” says head of category and insight Matt Stanton.
Derbyshire-based One Stop retailer Dee Sedani has noticed the change in shopper habits. “People being at home means they’re cleaning more than they did before,” he says.“Before you were in and out and you couldn’t be arsed - the only apparatus used was dishwashers and washing machines. Now, we’re selling detergent and kitchen roll all the time.”
Household cleaning is a strong category for H & Jodie’s Nisa Local High Heath in Walsall.“Our cleaning products are performing really well,” says Amrit Pahal, who runs the family-owned store. “Domestos toilet bleach and Co-op own label are cracking lines and washing up powder does well, Surf is a great brand for us in powder and detergent.”
He claims that the category’s success in his store is down to careful monitoring. “You have to look after it - we stock a massive range of cleaning and household products, we’re a one stop shop. We don’t want people to go elsewhere for that. Our core trade is very important. It’s imperative we focus on that and don’t let it slip.”
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Toilet Tissue is worth £88.4m (-16.6% yoy) in impulse (Nielsen - Impulse - Value Sales - MAT: 09.10.2021), and the total toilet roll market is declining vs. last year (which included the panic buying period at the start of lockdown 1.0), claims DCS Group. Value is down 7.9% vs. 2020, but up 1.8% vs. 2019 (Nielsen Scantrack Total Market 156wks ending 06.11.21).
“The average price of a toilet roll is decreasing in the UK market,” says Stanton. “Unit volume in 2021 increased by 3.2% vs. 2019, but value only increased by 1.8% [Nielsen Scantrack Total Market 156wks ending 06.11.21]. This is despite market-wide price increases and a reduction in promotions, and is driven by shoppers bulk-buying to save money, and by some shoppers trading down.”
Cushelle and Velvet have grown their share of the toilet roll market over the past year, Stanton adds. He claims that Andrex is seeing a decline in share, being impacted by reduced promotions within the category, but still maintains the market-leading brand with 29% share (Nielsen Scantrack Total Market 104wks ending 06.11.21). The effect is driven by shoppers switching into private label products, as well as into Cushelle (Kantar – Total Market – Toilet Tissues – 52 wks ending 03.10.21).
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Shoppers continue to look for products with antibacterial properties and retailers should ensure these products are listed as part of their core range, advises Stanton. He adds that there is an opportunity to create an antibacterial-focused secondary display, to encourage incremental cross-category purchases, which can include products across multiple categories and can promote premium trade-ups.
Antiseptics and liquid disinfectants sales are 41% up on 2019 (pre-pandemic) (Kantar Worldpanel Division – Total Household excl. Pet – 4w/e 5th Sept 2021). “This shows that despite any Coronavirus fatigue people are experiencing elsewhere in life, they are still cleaning and disinfecting more at home,” says Stanton.
“Anti-bacterial sprays and wipes sell better than before the pandemic,” says Scottish Linktown Local owner Faraz Iqbal. “We’ve got in the habit of cleaning more - your desk, or counter. We wipe handles, doors etc. It’s part of the routine.”
Amrit has also recognised the demand for antibacterial lines. “If you look at the specialist side of it - a lot of it is anti-bacterial,” he says, noting that Fairy antibacterial is a good seller.
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With rising household costs, including grocery inflation, energy bills, fuel prices and the new Health and Social Care tax, many shoppers are looking to save money, claims DCS. “17% of households say they are either ‘just making ends meet’ or ‘do not have sufficient income to cover expenses’, which is an increase of 4 percentage points vs. the previous year [Kantar, % households based on survey fielded in April 2021, n=10015],” says Stanton. “In previous periods of financial uncertainty, shoppers have reacted by buying more on promotion and trading down to cheaper products, as well as shopping in cheaper stores. “However, in the household category, growth in branded products is still outperforming that of own label [Kantar Worldpanel Division – Total Household excl. Pet – 52w/e 5th Sept 2021]. Shoppers trust the expertise of brands, and trust that branded products will do the job, which is especially important when it comes to cleaning and antibacterial needs.
“We have seen a rise of many tertiary brands in many categories, but brand-leaders continue to dominate their overall categories. Consumers are looking for brands that they know and trust, so retailers should prioritise well-known brands first.”
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According to Kantar, the proportion of ‘Eco Actives’ – shoppers who are highly concerned about the environment and are making the most of their actions to reduce their waste – has increased from 21% in 2019 to 29% in 2021 (Kantar, Europanel, GfK - Who Cares, Who Does 2021?).The top 20 eco-active brands, which includes eCover and Method, are growing at more than double the rate of the overall FMCG category (+5.2% growth vs. +2.2%) (ibid).Sustainability is growing in importance, states DCS. However, Stanton claims that retail operators’ measures towards creating a more sustainable world, such as taking action to reduce food waste, are more important than calling out [sustainable] products on shelf.
Dee agrees that sustainability is an area of interest in general, but that it isn’t a top priority for his customers when purchasing cleaning lines. “We did this whole eco thing with Locosoco [refills], but that fizzled out,” he says. “I don’t think the public are quite ready for that yet. The education’s not out there yet. In London and Birmingham it’ll work, but not in Etwall.”
Amrit takes a similar stance. “I’ve seen people doing the refill thing, but it won’t work for my store, I don’t have that market,” he says. “In my area, sustainability is definitely something that will become more important. In the utopias of Manchester and London, people will people will pay three or four times the price for sustainability. But my customers aren’t there yet. It will come but not yet.”
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When deciding on a product range, it’s important retailers cover the entry-level core range products first. However, premium lines are an opportunity. “Premium household cleaning products have relatively low distribution in convenience stores at the moment, but sales are outperforming the rest of the cleaning category so they are an opportunity for retailers to attract incremental spend,” says Stanton. He highlights Lenor Unstoppables in-wash scent boosters in Fresh and Spring Awakening,Comfort Ultimate Care fabric softener, and Vanish Gold stain removers as top performers.
Fabric Conditioners and Air Care are both performing well in the total market, both growing by 2% vs. 2020 (Nielsen – Total Market – Fabric Conditioners – Value Sales – MAT 11.09.2021; Nielsen – Total Market – Value Sales – MAT 09.10.2021) “Both are considered ‘affordable luxuries’ by shoppers looking to trade-up in lower-priced categories,” says Stanton. Air Care is also growing strongly in symbols and independents at +12% YoY (Nielsen – Impulse – Value Sales – MAT 09.10.2021).
Amrit claims that consumers will pay more for specialist cleaners. “We have 3m dedicated to HG, which has products like brassware cleaner, drainage cleaner, shower clever etc - if it’s specific for the job in hand then people have more confidence in it,” he says. “People are obsessed with convenience - they’re £8 a bottle. Even if you’re making 30%, that’s more than 30% of £1. More than 10 Flashes!”
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For the majority, hand sanitiser was previously a rarely used product reserved for camping trips or festivals, however, since the pandemic there has been a hyper awareness around hand hygiene that has had a significant impact on the market, states natural cleaning brand Purdy and Figg.
A survey of 2,000 adults living in the UK conducted by Opinium for Purdy and Figg, found that 51% of conusmers will not stop using hand sanitiser, demonstrating a behavioural shift following the heightened awareness around hand hygiene.
DCS concurs that having clean hands is now more important to a significant number of consumers. “We know that consumer behaviours have changed as a result of the pandemic,” says Stanton, noting that most consumers now wash their hands more frequently.
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With pet ownership going through the roof during lockdown, there could well be an opportunity for pet stain removal products. Dr. Beckmann’s Fermor says: “Figures have shown that more than 3.2 million pets were bought by UK households during lockdown. Due to the increase of pooches in the nation, we’ve seen a high demand for our Pet Stain & Odour Remover since lockdown first began, as we experienced a change in consumer behaviour.
“We don’t envision this changing any time soon, as four-legged friends will always be a part of our everyday lives. If they don’t already, we’d strongly advise convenience stores to add the product to its core offering, so consumers can pick up this product and clean up after their mucky pups anywhere at any time.”
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