Swiffer sees sales slipping

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The new swiffer duster brand has been a bright spot in a bad year for Procter & Gamble Co., but momentum is fading in year two.

Swiffer sales in the U.S. were $155.6 million for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 8., 17% below the $187.3 million recorded for the 52 weeks ended June 18, according to Information Resources Inc. The $31.7 million decline came despite the fact that the October period included 12 months of Swiffer sales and the earlier period included only the first 10 months of the rollout.

The drop is to be expected as Swiffer sales reflect a higher proportion of replacement-cloth sales and lower new-mop sales, Gretchen Price, P&G treasurer, told analysts in October. Swiffer, she said, still enjoys more than a 60% market share in the U.S. against S.C. Johnson & Son's Pledge Grab-It and other competitors. She said the June rollout of the larger Swiffer Max mop and Swiffer Wet cloths in October should help in coming months. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, handles.

Still, Pledge Grab-It has been gaining, with sales climbing 10% to $92.8 million in the October period compared with the June period. And Swiffer faces a growing band of competitors, from such value-priced knockoffs as X-static to entries from 3M Corp. and O-Cedar Brands-the leader in mops and brooms before P&G and S.C. Johnson came along last year.

A P&G spokeswoman said retail reception has been good for Swiffer Wet. And Swiffer Max, while not getting distribution in many supermarkets, is gaining distribution in larger-format retailers, such as Target Stores and Meijer supercenters.

Possibly waiting in the wings for Swiffer is Swiffer Wet Jet, a battery-operated wet mop priced at around $70 and selling only in Canada and Belgium.

With Swiffer under price pressure from all sides, including S.C. Johnson, whose Grab-It replacement cloths are priced about 10% below Swiffer, Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown analyst Andrew Shore believes a price cut could be coming for Swiffer. Already, some retailers in the Northeast are selling the original Swiffer mop for $9.99-about 33% below the original price, though the spokeswoman said the move was based on retail competition in the area, not a test by P&G.

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