LAUNDRY GIANTS TAKE BATTLE TO DRY CLEANERS; FABRIC CARE: DRYEL, COMPETITORS EXPAND FINE WASHABLES' AREA

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The leading players in laundry care are branching into the wider realm of fabric care, bringing with them millions of dollars in marketing support as they fashion new categories.

Procter & Gamble Co., laundry detergent king with more than 50% share of market, has launched two fabric-care products the past 18 months: Febreze, spawning a fabric-deodorizer segment last year; and Dryel, giving more heft to the already inaugurated home dry-cleaning category this summer.

Febreze, launched in spring 1998 with $60 million in ad spending, logged $250 million in sales its first year according to P&G. That volume outsold the entire laundry pre-treater category for the year.

By spring of this year, Febreze copycats emerged, including Clorox Co.'s Fresh Scent and Resolve fabric deodorizer, an extension of the Resolve air-freshener brand from Reckitt & Colman.

In ad campaigns estimated at $25 million for Fresh Scent and $15 million for Resolve, both claim, like Febreze, to clean bad odors away, not just cover them up. Fresh Scent must come closer than just mimick-ing Febreze: P&G sued Clorox for patent infringement this July.

CUSTOM CLEANER GETS JUMP

In home dry cleaning, Creative Products Resource got the jump on P&G by creating the category with Custom Cleaner, a home kit that, like Dryel, includes a stain-removal cloth (for dry or wet stains) and a heat-durable, plastic bag into which several garments are placed to tumble in the dryer.

But P&G has shouldered the marketing burden so far. Retailers project spending could hit $100 million the first year, starting with outdoor and Internet teaser ads in August followed by TV and radio in September.

P&G has just begun to conduct Dryel demos in the 275 largest shopping malls in the U.S., "basically all malls anchored by three or more stores," says brand manager Kevin McCallum. And Dryel will get demos in Liz Claiborne stores along with a gift-with-purchase program and hot links between the two marketers' Web sites.

"There will be some skepticism with this product," Mr. McCallum says. "Asking people to put a $200 cashmere sweater into a bag and throw it into a dryer is not going to be a natural act for most folks."

With dry-cleaning sales of $9 billion U.S. and $25 billion worldwide, P&G believes Dryel can be a potential $1 billion factor in global sales.

P&G, which bills the product as a supplement to dry cleaning and not a replacement, has been careful to assuage fears of dry-cleaner groups that Dryel will cut into their business, citing figures that show no effect on dry cleaners when Dryel was test marketed.

MOre LIKELY TO BUY

P&G also notes that Dryel users say they're now more likely to buy dry-clean-only clothes, a fact A.G. Lafley, president-North America for P&G, also believes could lead mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart to offer more fine washables. More dry-clean-only clothes would mean more business for Dryel and dry cleaners alike, but dry cleaners would additionally benefit because more clothes would need pressing. Apparel freshened by Dryel may require some pressing, especially if it's of a lighter weight. Heavier-weight clothing tends to come out wrinkle-free with Dryel.

custom cleaner bought

This year, the category caught the attention of Dial/Henkel, a joint venture formed this year by Dial Corp. and Henkel. It bought Custom Cleaner in July and plans to restage the brand with new ads this winter. Media spending on Custom Cleaner has yet to surface this year following only a $1.4 million expenditure last year. Presumably with Custom Cleaner on the block and near insurmountable competition from P&G, Creative Products Resource saw little reason to advertise.

In attending to new categories of fabric care, marketers haven't neglected detergents.

P&G has defended shares of its leading brands with four product improvements in the past year. These include a new "Clean Rinse" liquid Tide, an anti-bacterial Tide with Bleach, a better-cleaning version of Tide with activated hydrogen peroxide, and a new LiquiFiber ingredient in Cheer that P&G says helps keep clothes looking new.

Now, P&G faces new threats from the value side of the aisle. A new private-label detergent from Wal-Mart Stores rolled out in July, and Dial/Henkel is expected this winter to introduce an advanced form of Purex, to include a tablet version,

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