Fancy Pants: Will Designer Diapers Succeed?

By Karen Bitz McIntyre, Editor | August 12, 2010

ALONG TIME AGO, when I was a teen babysitter, I remember some of my young charges wearing gender- specific diapers—blue and white stripes for the boys and pink and white for the girls.

I vaguely remember that the core was positioned differently in the diaper for boys (in the front) than for the girls (between the legs) but being that this was long before I thought much about diaper design, I can’t remember much else--not even who made them--but I can remember thinking they were adorable.

Somewhere along the line, these gender-specific printed diapers disappeared from the market for reasons also unknown to me and diapers returned to their plain white, gender-neutral selves, save some licensed graphics. This summer, however, diaper manufacturers seem to be getting back to capitalizing on the cuteness factor with new diaper options that not only offer parents a new choice in diapering their children but also can eliminate the need for pants over a diaper, at least in warmer weather.

Described as a replacement product for apparel, Huggies Little Movers Jeans diapers, available for the summer months only, feature a pigmented polypropylene coverstock material, designed to resemble denim jeans. These diapers, which are priced about 5-7% more per unit than regular Little Movers, were not necessarily created to increase the company’s diaper margins but to increase exposure to a broader consumer base. The thinking is that the innovation will encourage more moms to try Little Movers, and the performance will make them stay with the brand after the the denim designs leave store shelves.

Also adding new designs to its diapers is Procter & Gamble, which, through a partnership with fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, is offering 11 designer diaper designs exclusively at Target. The designs, which are priced about $6 higher than typical Pampers, feature a range of colorful and patterned designs including madras, stripes and printed ruffles. At launchtime, Ms. Rowley described the importance of adding options in diapers, calling them the first piece of clothing a baby will ever wear.

The designer diapers are the latest attempts by the world’s two biggest diaper brands to drive new customers to their products— and away from competitors such as private label brands. During the past decade, diaper competition has intensified as private labels continue to close the gap on national brands. At the same time, pricing levels have changed little and margins have become more narrow than ever.

But, is a designer diaper really the answer? It will be interesting to see what type of success P&G and K-C have with these initiatives and how willing parents are to pay a premium for cuter diaper designs.

Karen McIntyre

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