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Clean sweep

Cleaning tools that promise less muss and fuss in dreaded household chores are driving the category

Andie Lennox loves it when her house is spic and span. But she hates doing the cleaning. "I'm always buying new products that I think will make it easier to dust and mop," says the 58-year-old customer service rep in Kitchener, Ont. "If someone sold a box with a little man inside who would come out and sweep up, I'd buy it for sure!"

Perhaps one day. But in the meantime, Lennox isn't alone in her distaste of housecleaning. A recent Datamonitor report found the majority of consumers hate household chores, partly because they don't enjoy scrubbing and mopping, but also because they can't squeeze cleaning in between the rest of their day–working, cooking and helping the kids with homework.

Don't look at this as a problem, though. It's a sales opportunity, because cleaning-averse consumers are always on the hunt for new and innovative products to take the donkeywork out of household chores. A recent study by Procter & Gamble found that 51 per cent of consumers say that product innovation allows them to significantly cut back on time spent cleaning.

In fact, consumers are spending ever-increasing dollars in search of that perfect mop. All-channel sales of cleaning tools and accessories rose about two per cent, to just over $612 million, during the 52 weeks ending April 9, 2011, according to Nielsen. Some categories were flat (paper towels, for instance), but growth in others was explosive. Surface-cleaning systems rose 11 per cent in dollar sales over the last year.

Bob Michieli at Johnny's Food Market in Sioux Lookout, Ont., says tools that simplify the cleaning process and add convenience are definitely pushing the category. "Swiffer products are a prime example. This segment is growing."

The Swiffer line was indeed a breakthrough when it was launched, 12 years ago. Since then the line has expanded to include a range of products that clean the house from top to bottom–from the Swiffer Sweeper to Swiffer Dust & Shine. The good news is, more products are hitting shelves that make cleaning even easier.

This year, P&G has upped the convenience factor by taking Swiffer tools out of the box and offering them pre-assembled. Customers can now touch and feel the tools in the store and use them right away at home. "Some people were having trouble finding the Swiffer at the shelf level," explains P&G's Victoria Maybee. "So now the products are available both disassembled and pre-assembled."

Maybee says P&G is encouraging retailers to carry the products pre-assembled, hanging the Swiffer tools like a broom or mop.

Another CPG stalwart with a new cleaning surface system on the market is Rubbermaid. Its Reveal Microfibre Spray Mop comes with a reusable microfibre pad that cleans with just plain water. The mop handle's refillable spray bottle can be topped up with the user's cleaning solution of choice.

"Consumers are looking for products that are not only easy to use, but that actually perform the cleaning task that they are designed to do," says Darrel Zehr, senior marketing manager of home products at Rubbermaid. Zehr says his company has found that consumers want cleaning tools that are inexpensive and environmentally responsible as well.

Lennox is one shopper who has her eye on the new Reveal mop. "I like the idea of being able to reuse the pad and refill the bottle," she says. "It's better for the environment and that's important to me. Besides, it looks really easy to use, and that's most important of all."

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