Vendors in the stickgoods/smallwares business are continuing to focus on high-performance, upscale products for 1991. While vivid colors remain a major thrust in the category, manufacturers are placing an increased emphasis on high-impact packaging, better-quality features and ergonomic designs.
Major suppliers like Rubbermaid, Drackett Products Co. and Quickie have all unveiled lines this year that feature ergonomic designs. Many of these introductions also come in revamped, more “consumer-friendly” packaging, and highlight better-quality features such as metal handles on stickgoods and cellulose sponges in smallwares.
“The whole cleaning category is going more upscale,” said Bruce Panveno, director of marketing for National Brush Co. “In the past, the products were generally considered low-end impulse items. Now the trend is to upgrade the category with better features, high-impact packaging and colors.”
Rob Cockfield, senior product manager at Rubbermaid, added, “Manufacturers are really making improvements in their product offerings in the cleaning business. And retailers in turn are promoting the category more than they did in the past.” Cockfield cited ergonomics as a particularly significant product benefit in the stickgoods/smallwares business.
Ergonomically designed products, including scrub brushes, spin mop bucket and brooms, are specially developed to offer the consumer the best grip and angle possible for cleaning jobs. Some manufacturers are targeting the older-age-population as a natural tie-in.
At Rubbermaid, ergonomics was a major thrust behind its cleaning line introduction this year, Cockfield said. The company’s blue 50-SKU collection includes short-handled brooms and scrub brushes designed to clean hard-to-reach areas.
Cockfield added products geared to the “seniors market” are also emerging as an important area in the cleaning category. “This whole area will be more pronounced in the future,” he said.
Judy L. Cline, director of marketing for Drackett, also cites the senior market and ergonomics as areas that represent growth potential. “There are a lot of opportunities in niche markets in the cleaning category, like the older age group and ergonomics,” she said.
Drackett first came out with an ergonomically designed line about two years ago with its Easy Reach Scrubber. This year the company is highlighting ergonomically designed handles on some of the products in its 17-SKU scrub brush line as well. Other product benefits include Drakett’s Power Tip Bristles (with stiffer tips) and dual color brushes.
According to Cline, Drackett will emphasize its new scrub brush line in ad campaigns and promotions this year.
Other manufacturers who have recently focused on the ergonomics trend include Quickie, Libman, and Empire Brushes.
Empire’s Comfortably Yours line of mops and brooms, for instance, features comfort grip handles to prevent hand and arm strain. The company also launched a newly designed brush line that was “specifically designed with the aging consumer in mind,” said Fred Nover, senior vice president of sales, marketing and logistics.
Besides ergonomics, cleaning vendors are also upgrading their lines with higher quality materials that offer extra durability and better performance.
Libman, for example, redesigned several of its mops and brooms this year to make them more comfortable to use as well as more durable, said Robert Libman, president. He explained most of the company’s brooms and mops now have pained metal tubes instead of wooden handles. Other product improvements include better quality yarn on Libman’s Freedom Dust Mop and hang holders on the steel handles of all the microfiber mop head and brooms.
Libman is keying in on its Wonder Mop this year in ad campaigns and promotions–mainly because of the product’s unique features, such as a self-regulating wringer cup, according to Libman.
Product innovation continues to be the focal point at M.B. Walton Inc., known for its Roll-O-Matic mop and Performer Angle Broom. Art Frigo, president, said the Performer Angle Broom will be the centerpiece of the company’s national TV advertising campaigns and other promotions this year. The brooms, which has a red handle and black bristles, features, patented angled bristles for hard-to-reach corners and crevices.
“We believe there is a significant demand for high-quality, upscale brooms with attractive designs and color,” Frigo said. “Cleaning is a drudgery, and if consumers are going to have to do it, they might as well use a product that works well and looks good.”
Kellogg Brush Manufacturing Co. is another vendor that will put its weight behind better-quality features and innovation this year, according to Ben Wilde, vice president of sales. He said the company’s three key products are the Plastic Sponge Mop, with the “only long-lasting true hinge assembly on the market,” the Captain Hook angled broom; and the Suds & Sponge, a detergent dispenser that comes with either a cellulose sponge or a non-scratch scrubber sponge.
“Cleaning is a drudgery,” added Wilde. “And if consumers are going to have to do it, they might as well use product that works well and looks good.”
At Quickie, meanwhile, all of the company’s 1991 product introductions highlight better quality and profitability for the retailer, said Vince Cella, director of marketing. “Our housewares and hardware show introductions are premium quality, higher-ticket items,” Cella said. He added that better-quality features on Quickie products include foam cushion grips on broom handles, spin mop reviews with more absorbent sponges and industrial-strength handles.
Cella cited the company’s HomePro Automatic Sponge Mop as a prime example of Quickie’s direction to offer a greater variety of step-up cleaning products. The mop features a cellulose sponge and oversize rollers that make it easier to squeeze water out of the sponge.
“The consumer is ready for better-quality features and durability in cleaning products today,” cella said. “they are also willing to spend more money if they perceive that the value is there.”
High-quality brooms is where the action is at National Brush this year, said Panveno. He explained that the company is playing up its Steel-Craft Push Broom line in promotions. The higher-end brooms feature durable metal frames, vergus the traditional wood block style brooms, according to Panveno.
Virtually all the manufacturers polled by HFD have worked with color, larger photographs, and more simplified copy on packaging to highlight upscale features introduced this year.
Suburbanite has addressed the color trends in packaging and products with a new program called Accents. The program focuses on forest green and white color-coordinated products and displays for springs, and a green and plum collection for the fall.