The Shampoo Shakeout

According to a recent article in the The Wall Street Journal, supermarkets, drug stores and discounters are switching gears amid the recession: Less will be more in terms of product selection on their respective shelves. Rather than cram in an abundance of choices (a typical Target store has 88 kinds of Pantene shampoo, conditioner and styling products!), the belief is that less will be more to consumers who are choosing to be thrifty and, when they do make a purchase, buy brands they trust.

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According to a recent article in the The Wall Street Journal, supermarkets, drug stores and discounters are switching gears amid the recession: Less will be more in terms of product selection on their respective shelves. Rather than cram in an abundance of choices (a typical Target store has 88 kinds of Pantene shampoo, conditioner and styling products!), the belief is that less will be more to consumers who are choosing to be thrifty and, when they do make a purchase, buy brands they trust.

So instead of 25 superglues (who knew there was more than two?), Walgreens will now carry 11. Similarly, Walmart has whittled down its tape measure selection from a whopping 24 to four. Overall, the article states that assortments at these stores will be pared down 15 percent.

When it comes to items like shampoos, tape measures and cereals (the article notes Kroger is looking to cut back 30 percent on its assortment), I can totally grasp the less-is-more logic. However, that rule of thumb applied to shoe merchandising generally leads to a sea of brown and black styles, and a consumer about as excited to choose between them as they might be when deciding between one-ply or two—i.e. not very.

Unfortunately, this monochromatic occurrence has already been rearing its head as many shoe store buyers cut back on breadth and go with safer—albeit stale-looking—selections. But retailers, ask yourselves: If what you have on display has not been selling, why do you think going deeper or safer with your current brand assortment will be the cure? Fashion is driven by newness—always has been and always will be. There’s a risk of becoming so safe your mix will more likely be the pitfall, not penny-pinching consumers. Give them a reason to spend and they will.

Nevertheless, the fringe brands and edgier styles in general are reportedly being cut. Many manufacturers have told me of late how they are happy to be a “core” brand and not on the outside trying to get on the shelves. Good for them, but perhaps bad for the consumer. I’d prefer to see retailers taking a stand with riskier—but more compelling—product. If history is any indication, consumers will take notice.
 

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