Cleaning up on sales in the homecare and laundry category starts with talking to the market leaders, and there’s no-one better to speak to than Matt Jackson, Procter & Gamble UK’s Multi Channel Director, responsible for 25% of their UK business.
The channels Matt heads up are wholesale, convenience, ‘Club,’ as in Costco, distributors, discounters as in Aldi and Lidl, and high street, as in Superdrug and Boot’s. In a wide-ranging conversation at ‘Win In Spring,’ P&G’s 2018 household products briefing, Matt gave some insights into this key FMCG supplier, whose brand portfolio covers not only household and cleaning but a number of top personal care names as well.
“The UK is P&G’s third biggest global market and the household market is extremely important to us. P&G was founded in the UK, and we have a plethora of important brands, which have been part of people’s lives for generations.”
Speaking in February 2018 Matt Jackson says 2017 was a year of changing consumer trends in household cleaning:
“People are moving to shorter wash cycles at lower temperatures. The way we clean our homes is changing with the move to open plan living. There are different work surfaces now, more wood flooring and fewer carpets. Existing homes are being modernised and new ones built all over the place and consumers have huge cleaning needs.”
P&G’s ShelfHelp programme focuses on convenience stores, helping independent retailers maximise the sales potential of household cleaning and laundry products in their stores up and down the country, but Matt says it also has a positive influence on the wholesalers that supply them and the principles work elsewhere too:
“We don’t believe in churning out SKU’s for news. ShelfHelp’s spotlight is on making room for the strong sellers. In the first year we got rid of ten percent of our SKU’s and we’re on a three year glide path to take out thirty percent.” P&G don’t currently have a specific initiative in the same vein for wholesalers, Matt says, “but there’s no reason why we couldn’t set one up.”
P&G won’t disclose sales figures for each country they trade in but Matt says Europe accounts for 23% of the company’s business. Asked to pick out the top brands in the UK household portfolio, in Matt’s words P&G’s biggest brand “by miles” is Fairy, which includes hand dish cleaning, auto dish cleaning and fabric enhancers and is “number one and growing.” He also points to Ariel, the number one key performing laundry brand, and Flash, with its strong heritage and much loved TV commercial featuring a rework of the classic Queen song.
P&G has brands in every household category – six out of the top nine in laundry and leading brands in air care and surface care. Of the new launches being unveiled this spring, with upgrades to many current products, Matt says the new air care range is particularly innovative.
Given his role as Multi Channel Director, Matt is keenly aware of the changes in the way people shop, from the big shop out of town once a week that prevailed in the 1990s to smaller shopping trips 3.6 times a week now:
“The sheer number of shopping trips has exploded, but it’s the basket size that is really important. We need to get people putting more in the basket.”
Online is now a powerful force in consumer shopping generally, but in the household category Matt predicts the discounters and the convenience sector will also grow further:
“These are all convenient channels, stealing sales from the major multiples, giving people what they need, quicker, when they’re on the go. From what we’re seeing with ShelfHelp there’s a lot more opportunity from this start point. “
Where there’s soap, there’s hope
In the 1950s Procter & Gamble was one of the first major sponsors of the long running TV serials here and elsewhere that became known as soap operas, due to the fact that so many of the sponsors were soap manufacturers. And as Matt Jackson pointed out during the interview, as consumers we have an intimate connection with their brands, from fabric care to floor cleaners and air fresheners. So they are very much part of our lives, But some genuine human drama emerged during the Win In Spring event, which made the evening extra memorable.
Atul Sodha, a Londis retailer in Uxbridge who owns one of P&G’s current ShelfHelp test stores, became emotional in the middle of his presentation about improving sales by sharpening his household product range and following P&G’s merchandising recommendations. The cue was Mr Sodha’s moving revelation that one of three teenage boys killed by an out of control car driver at a bus stop in Hayes, West London on their way to a birthday party the weekend before, had worked in his shop.
The harrowing story was in the news headlines the week of the Win In Spring event, so people in the audience were very much aware of it. The boy’s mother had come into the store to tell Atul the sad news about the tragedy the previous weekend and it was very much on the retailer’s mind speaking to us a few days later.
After that, this writer’s eyes moistened when the P&G team showed the Fairy Non Bio laundry detergent and fabric softener commercial ‘Head shoulders knees and toes,’ sound tracked by the familiar nursery rhyme. Sung by an unaccompanied female voice, it was the final touch to make the evening particularly poignant and like Atul’s presentation, confirm the power not only of P&G’s brands but the human spirit as well. Which doesn’t happen at many trade events you go to.
Procter & Gamble UK