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When chemist bob black concocted Clean Shower in his garage five years ago, he was looking to make his job easier when he took over shower cleaning duties from his pregnant wife.

His idea for a cleaning solution that could be misted onto the shower and left to do its work without scrubbing has turned into a $150 million segment that breathed new life into the household cleaners category.


Today, the company Mr. Black started, Automation, continues to confound the big boys. Clean Shower has held its lead in the everyday shower cleaner segment despite an ever-lengthening list of knockoffs from U.S. and European household-cleaning giants, including Clorox Co., S.C. Johnson & Son, Reckitt & Colman and Joh. A. Benckiser.

When Clorox noticed the sudden surge of Clean Shower in 1997, the brand's first year of full national distribution, the company developed its own entry into everyday shower cleaners -- Tilex Fresh Shower.

Clorox made two predictions to retailers in 1998: Its Tilex Fresh Shower would take the No. 1 position in everyday shower cleaners that year and the segment could hit $60 million.

Clorox was wrong on both counts. Clean Shower, defending its turf vigorously with new packaging, and TV ads of its own, racked up sales of nearly $77 million in 1998, up over 300%.

The segment has tripled Clorox's projections, with Tilex Fresh Shower contributing another $43.7 million in sales of its own and new entries, Reckitt & Colman's Lysol, S.C. Johnson's Shower Shine and Benckiser's Scrub Free, accounting for the rest.

New competition, with the exception of S.C. Johnson's Shower Shine, has been good for the category, says Paul Porter, a director at Automation and its former president-chief operating officer, who got Clean Shower on the map by securing on-air endorsements from deejays working the early-morning drive-time.

Mr. Porter believes S.C. Johnson is "trying to kill the category" by offering aggressive two-for-one promotions. The strategy, Mr. Porter believes, is to bolster S.C. Johnson's other entry in non-abrasive tub and tile cleaners, the more conventional Dow Bathroom Cleaner.

Media ad spending patterns seem to indicate Shower Shine is here to stay, because S.C. Johnson is backing Shower Shine with first-year spending of $9.4 million through the first five months of 1999 -- a sum in keeping with its competition.


Category sales appear to be leveling in 1999, Mr. Porter says, which he ascribes to a combination of heavy promotion by Shower Shine and the fact "people have realized you don't necessarily have to use the product every day."

For its part, Clorox also blamed aggressive promotions by S.C. Johnson for declining sales of Tilex Fresh Shower in second quarter 1999, one of a number of factors that caused Clorox sales and stock prices to falter in the period.

"Clorox's market shares [for Tilex Fresh Shower] have been okay, but not terrific," says Wendy Nicholson, analyst with Salomon Smith Barney. "I would expect them to pick up the pace of their ad spending to try to regain some of the share they've lost."

Clorox continues its dominance of the $641.1 million all-purpose cleaner category (down 3.5% in 1998), with three of the top five cleaners, led by its Pine Sol brand at 22% of market, up from 16.7%, according to IRI. The shot in the arm is coming from its new lemon-scented, anti-bacterial spray.

Procter & Gamble Co. has moved to rejuvenate No. 5 Mr. Clean (5.5% share) by shifting back to its original formula from a concentrated formulation.

A bigger move could come next year with the launch of an anti-bacterial towel from Mr. Clean that will straddle the line between household cleaners and paper towels. P&G Chairman-CEO Durk Jager said in June that P&G plans to roll out the product globally, though no plans have been announced to retailers. The product,

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