Doubts About Sure Deodorant Prod P&G to Ponder Sale

Brand on Block After Portfolio Review; Could Bring $100 Million

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CINCINNATI ( -- Raise your hand if you want to buy Sure. Procter & Gamble Co. is seeking buyers for the venerable brand after conducting a portfolio review of its deodorant business, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Although Sure's annual sales could easily top $70 million, the brand is overshadowed by P&G's Secret, Old Spice and Tag.
Although Sure's annual sales could easily top $70 million, the brand is overshadowed by P&G's Secret, Old Spice and Tag.

Sales fell 8%
Though its sales including Wal-Mart, club and dollar stores could easily top $70 million, Sure is a relatively low priority in a P&G portfolio led by Secret, Old Spice and younger deodorant brands such as Tag. In food, drug and mass merchandisers, Sure's sales fell 8% to $37.8 million in the 52 weeks ended July 16, and the brand shed 0.3 share points as the $1.1 billion category grew 1%, according to Information Resources Inc.

Based on the $420 million sale price P&G received for the Gillette brands, which had sales of $275 million, Sure could fetch more than $100 million. P&G declined to comment.

Portfolio review
The company conducted a portfolio review before closing its Gillette acquisition last year, according to an executive familiar with the process. Sure subsequently got a last chance to prove itself with ads from WPP Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, showing a bloodhound who couldn't find the scent of his target thanks to the brand's performance. Yet sales and share continued to slide.

P&G put no measured media behind Sure in the first quarter. But unlike other brands P&G has sloughed off recently, such as Pert shampoo/conditioner, it has given Sure relatively strong advertising support in recent years, with $21.7 million in outlays last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Sure is a largely gender-neutral brand in a category where the emphasis mainly has been on gender-specific brands of late such as Unilever's Axe and Dove and P&G's Old Spice and Secret. Even Unilever's gender-neutral Degree has evolved into more specific men's and women's products, as other gender-neutral brands such as Church & Dwight Co.'s Arrid have struggled.

German rival Henkel
P&G was required earlier this year to sell to German rival Henkel former Gillette brands Right Guard, Soft & Dri and Dry Idea, which, like Sure, had received recent ad support. That puts Sure in a class with those brands and makes it more likely that strategic players, such as Henkel, Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Kao Brands would have interest, said one industry-watcher.

Lornamead, a U.K. orphan-brand consolidator looking to grow its North American business to $500 million after acquiring Unilever's Finesse and P&G's Yardley brands in the past year, also would likely be interested.

The move appears to be the first major strategic decision on the P&G deodorant business since Gillette vet Mary Anne Pesce took over as president-global deodorant and personal cleansing in May.

Spokespeople for the potential acquirers either could not be reached or declined to comment.
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