Shoppers embrace shower power

Consumers are increasingly abandoning their bath tubs for the shower and this is boosting sales of associated toiletries.Steve. Steve Quilty investigates. Steve Quilty is an account manager at IRI InfoScan

From being a nation of committed bathers, the British are now embracing the joys of the shower.

Summer is the peak season for showering (the kind you do in the bathroom, not the frequent and heavy kind we experienced in June) and with 77 per cent of homes now equipped with a shower (Taylor Nelson AGB), that means that the market for shower toiletries has never looked better.

Volume sales of shower products were up 12 per cent in the year ending May 1997 versus the same period last year and the category is experiencing a high level of new product development – nine per cent of volume sales are accounted for by new products. The main themes of npd are “sensitive” formulations designed to care for the skin and “natural” fragrances redolent of flowers and herbs, both of which seem to be steering shower gels away from their functional image towards a more indulgent or caring positioning. Some manufacturers are also introducing larger, longer-lasting pack sizes to encourage family use.

Shower products are also heavily promoted in-store, and in the past year, the majority of this promotion has been based on eye-catching displays and in-store materials designed to gain trial, rather than just price cuts. The level of promotion also strongly reflects the seasonality of these products. In July, 50 per cent of shower gel is sold on promotion compared with 25 per cent in the last week of December. This level of support probably exaggerates the natural seasonality of the category with the result that volume sales in the four weeks from mid-July to mid-August are 22 points higher than the average for the year.

But despite all this activity, there is clearly further potential for the shower market itself as well as for shower products – only 62 per cent of people use the shower in a given week and only 64 per cent of these use special products, formulated for the shower (Taylor Nelson AGB). This potential could be further increased by the spread of water metering and also by the trend towards smaller households – creating as it does demand for new homes, which tend to have showers installed. Shower use itself will probably increase, influenced by lifestyle trends such as pressure on time and a growing tendency for bathing to be treated as an indulgence rather than the everyday method of keeping clean.

That means that there is still a place for the great British bath. Sales of bath foams and oils still account for l36m per year compared with shower products at 83m and, although the bath products market is not growing in volume terms, neither is it going down the plug hole. In fact, sales of formulations such as “aromatherapy”, “natural” and “sensitive” have helped stimulate a value growth of six per cent in the last year.

The seasonality of bathing is the opposite of showering, with sales 25 per cent above average in December. This can be partly accounted for by gift sales, but on a cold winter (or summer) evening, shower gel manufacturers will have to go a long way to tempt the British away from the luxury of the long, hot soak.

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