Baking/Cooking Staples / Categories / Trend Features
Private Eye: Laundry & Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

Our secret shoppers head to their local retailers to find out what’s happening in cleaning and laundry products.

May 10, 2013

Detergents are a $7 billion category, with private label holding a 4.4 percent dollar share and a 6.7 percent unit share (1.4 billion units), according to Nielsen records compiled for the 2012 PLMA Private Label Yearbook.

Laundry supplies are a $3.3 billion category, with private label holding an 18.2 percent dollar share and a 24.6 percent unit share (923.5 million units).

PLBuyer sent five of its secret shoppers to check out cleaning and laundry items at an Ingles Markets store in North Carolina, a Price Chopper in Missouri, a Walmart Super Center in Colorado, a Giant Eagle in Ohio, and an Arizona Fry’s, part of the Kroger family of stores. 

We asked them to evaluate how their local grocers market and merchandise their laundry and cleaning products.

In addition to looking for in-store promotions and advertising, shoppers recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand liquid laundry detergent, fabric softener, dishwasher detergent, and liquid household cleaners. They then conducted their own product tests in one of these categories.

Here, we provide you with our gathered insight.

Side by Side

All of the secret shoppers this month reported seeing at least some of the private label laundry or cleaning products shelved side-by-side with national brands. However, no one reported seeing shelf tags comparing private brand and national brand cleaning and laundry products, except for Bill K. at Ingles’ Market.

Additionally, no one reported seeing in-store promotion for private label products, except for Sarah C. at Fry’s, and Michael G., who saw some in-aisle signage at Price Chopper for store brands in general, but not for individual products.

Michael noted there were fewer private brand products at Price Chopper offered in cleaning/laundry versus other (primarily food) product categories. Bill reported the private label packaging (including color of containers) was very similar to the national brands at Ingles Market.

“The store brands were at least one dollar cheaper and looked just like its counterpart,” said Christina R. about her local Walmart.

Christina uncovered a new item at Walmart, advertised with a “new!” shelf tag. The “Blooming Lavender” laundry detergent is a no-name private label, rather than falling under the retailer’s Great Value brand. The detergent is safe for high efficiency machines and saves 50 cents over national brand Purex at the same store.

At Ingles Market, Bill reported the same size Laura Lynn Bright laundry detergent beat Purex’s sale price by 70 cents. However, the biggest savings were seen at Price Chopper and Giant Eagle.

Price Chopper’s Best Choice detergent beat national brand Tide w/Febreze’s price by $8.70 for the same size. Amy K. reported Giant Eagle’s free and clear detergent was $5.30 cheaper then same size Gain detergent’s sale price.

Private brand fabric softener was about $1 less than the name brand except for at Giant Eagle, where Amy said a 120-count of Bounce dryer sheets was priced $3 more than a larger 160-count of Valu Time Dryer Sheets.

At Fry’s, the Kroger brand liquid cleaners saved a $1.99 over national brand 409, Sarah reported. At Giant Eagle, Valu Time Cleaner with Bleach cost $1.29, while Clorox Clean Up + Bleach retailed for $3.89.

The biggest savings in dishwasher detergent was seen at Walmart, where Christina said Cascade Gel was $1.38 more than the same size Great Value Gel. Although the savings doesn’t make a difference for every shopper. Michael reported that although he sometimes buys Costco’s Kirkland brand laundry detergent, for dishwashing, he almost always buys national brand Cascade.

Likewise, Bill reported that he will buy private brand laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

“I buy all the store brands in this category if the name brand is not on sale,” Christina said.

Product Tests

Christina wasn’t overwhelmed by the Walmart brand she tried.

“I tried out the Great Value dishwashing detergent and it works alright,” she said. “My dishes had spots on them.”

However Bill tried the store brand dryer sheets at Ingles Market and found no discernible difference from the national brand. Sarah agreed at Fry’s.

“The dryer sheets for both brands seem fine,” she said. “I only use them for my husband and my laundry (not for the kids’ clothes), and for using them less often either brand would work for us.”

Amy tried Giant Eagle’s Valu Time Cleaner with Bleach.

 “I would rate this product as ‘comparable’ to the national Clorox brand on the shelf,” she said. “I have used deep cleaning national brand bleach products like this one in the past and I have gotten about the same results.  I would only use this product for deep cleaning in a well-ventilated area without small children around because of the extremely strong bleach smell.” 

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