P&G's second Swiffer extension meets retailer backlash

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Procter & Gamble Co. is extending Swiffer for the second time since last year's launch. The new product is Swiffer Wet, a moist, antibacterial, disposable cloth that fits the new super-premium-price Swiffer Max extension introduced only last month.

The barrage has given some retailers Swiffer-shock over line extensions, with packaging and price tags double that of the brand's original bulky, premium-price products. They feel consumes may have trouble swallowing so much Swiffer so soon after the brand's introduction last August.

Swiffer Wet begins shipping to retailers Sept. 18, with TV and print ads from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, running November through February and reaching 90% of the brand's target households, according to P&G sales literature. Newspaper coupons for $1 off run Nov. 5, Dec. 3 and Jan. 28.

Though Swiffer ranks among the biggest first-year successes in recent package-goods history--with sales of $187.3 million through June 18, according to Information Resources Inc.--several chains are refusing to stock the bigger, higher-price Swiffer Max and Wet products. Or they're making P&G surrender existing Swiffer space to make way for them.


Swiffer Wet cloths, similar to the Mr. Clean Wipe-Ups line P&G rolled out in January, allow consumers to do away with buckets and wash their floors as well as sweep them with Swiffer brooms. They come in 12- and 24-count packs priced at up to $10.

The Wet cloths fit the new Swiffer Max mop, which has a mop head and cloths twice as big as the original Swiffer. P&G claims the new cloths pick up bigger dirt particles than the standard Swiffer cloths. Max retails for $18 to $20, up to 33% higher than the original Swiffer mop. Max replacement cloths run $8 to $10 for packs of 16, as much as twice the price of regular Swiffer replacements.

Since Swiffer Wet cloths are designed to work only on Max, they could give retailers and consumers a new reason to buy the product, which has been slow to gain retail distribution so far. P&G dropped newspaper coupons for Swiffer Max on July 9, although major mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Target and many supermarket chains have yet to stock the product. Magazine ads and tags in existing Swiffer ads are scheduled to break this month.

One advantage for Swiffer: Rival S.C. Johnson & Son's Pledge Grab-It doesn't yet have a wet cloth, and Pledge's dry cloths don't fit Swiffer Max brooms. That's good news for P&G, because retailers say some consumers now buy Pledge Grab-It cloths--priced about 10% to 15% lower than Swiffer replacements--for the original Swiffer mop. Swiffer, however, has outsold Grab-It by more than 2 to 1 in the U.S. Grab-It had sales of $84.7 million through June 18, according to IRI.

One Midwest retailer said he was removing two of three sizes of original Swiffer replacement cloths to make room for Max.


Size does matter on retail shelves, and Max "is just too big for my size store," said a northeastern supermarket buyer. "It's more of a club store item." A retail buyer in the Southeast objects to the price of Max: "It's just another way of ripping off the consumer," he said.

"It's amazing what consumers are willing to pay when a new product solves a real problem," said William Steele, an analyst with Bank of America Securities. But Swiffer Wet, he said, "is essentially a mop, and most consumers have wet mops right now."

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