As the recession bites, more of us are trading down to cheaper own-label products. And the sector which has seen the most of this is household goods. That’s according to the Recession Study March 2009, published by Harris International Marketing (Him), which found that 38% of people said they planned to buy more ’value’ own-label products. And the top value item they said they were after was cleaning products.

Spar UK has seen this trend over the past few months, with increased demand for its own-label cleaning products as well as its value range. Tina Hird, Spar’s trading controller, says: "We are doing very well in own-label products in the household goods area. I think we’re seeing a strengthening in this area that started to kick in during the last quarter of 2008." Hird says dishwasher tablets and powder have been performing particularly strongly, while sales are also up slightly on washing up liquid. In addition, people are trading more into Spar’s value brand, particularly on items such as bleach.

One major area of the household goods sector is laundry. Figures from TNS World Panel data to September 2008 show the average UK household does 3.8 loads of washing per week and uses a fabric conditioner for 3.6 loads, which shows the potential this area has for retailers.

One of the biggest players in the sector is Unilever UK, maker of Persil, Comfort and Surf. The company recently revealed the UK laundry category is worth about £1.3bn (IRI latest MAT 21st Feb 2009).

The company says the biggest recent development is the surge in popularity of concentrated liquids. According to IRI data these are growing by 125%. The reasons for the growth include reduced wastage - concentrates claim to have the same cleaning power as double the amount of standard liquid detergents along with the environmental benefits of less packaging. And small really is beautiful for independent retailers because concentrates take up far less space on shelf.

Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble (P&G) is launching what it calls a ’consumer value initiative’ across its Ariel range. The campaign focuses on the cost- and energy-saving potential of using the compacted SKUs on a cool wash cycle. It uses the on-pack strapline ’Turn To Cool Wash’ with the claim ’save up to £1.60 in energy with this pack by turning to cool wash’.

P&G trade communications manager, Paul Lettice, says: "With the current economic climate shining a light on the cost of living for all our consumers, we are striving to find the most innovative and effective ways to deliver value to the consumer. Our aim with this initiative is to offer consumers savings with every pack along with the brilliant cleaning results they’ve come to expect from the Ariel brand." P&G also relaunched Fairy Liquid earlier this year with the old 500ml bottle replaced by a more eco-friendly, lighter 450ml bottle made from recycled plastic.

Finally, the recent Swine Flu scare seems to have sent consumers flocking to buy cleaning products. Spar’s Tina Hird says: "Sales of anti-viral tissues and anti-bacterial wipes are higher than expected at this time of year. In addition, we’re seeing a definite spike in purchases of facial tissues and items such as extra strength paracetamol. This all started at about the beginning of May, and the change is quite profound. It’s having a real impact, and we’re asking our regional distribution centres to stock up."


=== Batteries directive ===

Last month parliament decided that from next February the Batteries Directive would come into effect in the UK. This means that any retailer selling at least 32kg of batteries per year must provide a visible collection point where customers can drop off used batteries to be sent for recycling.

According to Paula Brinson Pyke, marketing manager of Varta UK, it will also be the retailer’s responsibility to make people aware of the service. The batteries will then be collected by an outside agency.

Brinson Pyke adds: "This means that if a retailer sells one pack of AA batteries per day they are eligible, so it will have a wide-ranging impact on the industry."

But while retailers will have to give up space in store for the collection bins, she adds that it could bring in extra sales. She explains: "When consumers come in to recycle their batteries it will provide an opportunity for retailers to ask if they need replacements. The scheme will help with the green credentials of sites, as well as providing the opportunity for conversation about the recycling which could lead to sales."