Sales of wipes through retail outlets rebounded strongly in 2010, a 5% increase in value terms over 2009. This was positive news for a category which had been hit by the recession in developed markets, as these account for roughly 80% of retail sales. While other product categories such as laundry care have experienced a similar downturn in the developed world, growing penetration in developing regions had resulted in positive growth, despite problems in Western Europe and North America. Wipes were not afforded this luxury.
Growth in wipes (+5%) was lower than posted by home care (+6%) and personal care (+7%) but still a welcome rebound from the -2.5% posted in 2009. Perhaps a truer measure of the performance of wipes against its peer industries comes from a review which excludes developing nations. This comparison reveals that wipes was actually the most positive performer with 2% value growth in 2010 as opposed to the 1.5% seen across personal care and tissue and hygiene, or indeed home care, which lagged behind with only 0.5%.
Wipes clearly still have something to offer consumers even in more austere times.
Personal Care Formats Gain—Home Care In Decline
Consumers Want Convenience, But Are Disinclined To Pay A Premium
Consumers, on the whole, proved unwilling to pay a premium for convenience or, the difficult to quantify, improved efficacy wipes can offer. Unwilling to increase expenditures on home care, consumers once more appeared satisfied with multipurpose cleaners used in conjunction with cloths or paper towels. Indeed, kitchen towel manufacturers have highlighted the tensile strength of their products and applicability for cleaning tasks perhaps more normally associated with wipes or traditional cloths.
The suggestion that consumers are reevaluating the disposable aspects of their lifestyles is misleading; time poor consumers are still looking for convenience, but since the recession, these same consumers are now also classified as cash strapped, or at least lacking financial confidence. There were, however, some exceptions to this rule with specialist window and glass care proving popular in some markets such as the U.K. as consumers looked to do odd jobs around the home, thus saving on the expense of using tradesmen.
Electrostatic Wipes—Still Alluring To Many
It can also be argued that this growth is linked to the prevailing trend of health and wellness with consumers better informed on allergies and problems associated with house dust and mites in the home. Ultimately, however, these products offer consumers perceived greater efficacy against traditional polish and duster type cleaners, which continues to appeal to many, especially in North America. Sales in 2010 saw +2% value growth (opposed to -6% 2009) and were in part driven by respectable +3% growth posted by the key North America market following a concerted period of product promotion by
Procter & Gamble, for example. A poor performance by Japan and Western Europe undercut more impressive growth rates due to poor economic times discouraging consumers from spending, most notably in economies which have been more widely exposed to the financial crisis such as Portugal and Greece.
Baby Wipes Dominate Sales And Prove Popular In Emerging Economies
At least part of the success of baby wipes has come from expansion into developing markets where they are relatively inexpensive and, importantly, held in high regard by a growing band of consumers. The category has also benefited from close association to the nappies/diapers industry, which has invested heavily in developing countries. Baby wipes have ridden on the coat tails of this trend towards disposables and as a result saw 25% of value sales generated from emerging markets in 2010.
With impressive growth of +18% year-on-year, baby care wipes certainly point the way to a future for wipes which has less of a focus on the more saturated Western economies, where growth was a more modest +3%. That said, in developed markets where birth rates are on the whole declining, penetration rates have also been seen to grow. This has been encouraged by notable uptake of baby wipes as a substitute for more expensive cosmetic wipes or other personal wipes, as consumers look for safe, often natural, products. This trend has not been the preserve of wipes; baby, skin, bath and hair care products have all reported better than expected sales in many developed markets, despite the less than helpful overall trend for birthrates.
Japan Spurs Growth For Cosmetic Wipes
Wine Wipes are just one of a number of clever new product introductions driving wipes growth.
Forecast Growth Dependent On New Territories
In order to move the category forward at a more rapid rate, manufacturers will face some major obstacles; chiefly, they will need to convince consumers to trade in their cloths for disposable alternatives. Indian consumers, for example, are typically loath to dispose of products in the same manner as Western consumers and this kind of attitude will take some changing.
Alternatively, at a time when sustainability is a watch word for FMCG as a whole, the more sustainable leanings of these populations, whether economically driven or otherwise, may be something that needs to be preserved. To date, almost to a product, NPD hails from leading Western nations, but the future health of the category may well require developments which are specific to consumers in emerging markets rather than the ‘transplantation’ of products originally conceived and designed for a Western audience.
Sustainability To Be Key Consideration In More Developed Areas