Sunday, January 13, 2002

Jager's hits and misses

By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here's a recap of the products that were nurtured by the product-development frenzy that Durk Jager created as Procter & Gamble Co.'s chief executive. Excluded are big-brand extensions, such as Olay Daily Facials, Pampers Baby Stages and Bounty Double Quilted, as well as acquisitions — such as the huge Iams pet-food brand and the smaller Dr. Johns Products.

        • Whitestrips: The peroxide whitener, applied through strips placed on a user's teeth, quickly became a blockbuster after its appearance in stores in early 2001. Sales were launched online in September 2000.

        According to market-tracker Information Resources Inc., sales of Whitestrips totaled more than $69 million last year. And P&G officials said sales should approach $200 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

        The IRI data include most mass merchandisers, but not Wal-Mart Stores, one of P&G's biggest customers

        • Dryel: The home dry-cleaning kit showed great potential early after its introduction in mid-1999. But it never met original projections, and chief executive A.G. Lafley said last summer that P&G would pull back Dryel sales to the United States.

        During the year ended Dec. 2, Dryel sales fell more than one- third, according to IRI.

        • Febreze: The fabric freshener was sent to stores in May 1998 and posted impressive early sales. For the 52 weeks ended Dec. 2, sales were up 24 percent from the previous year.

        Tom Vierhile, general manager of Marketing Intelligence Service, a Naples, N.Y., company that tracks new consumer products, predicted Febreze could develop staying power, noting that it could have some commercial uses as well.

        • Fit: Although the produce wash gained a dominant market share, the market was simply too small.

        P&G's decision to pull the plug in September was applauded by analysts. Mr. Lafley has promised similar quick decisions for other products that aren't meeting P&G's profit goals.

        • Swiffer: After less than a year in test market, the floor cleaner went onto store shelves in mid-1999. P&G officials called it a success from day one.

        According to IRI, sales increased 34 percent during the 12 months ended Dec. 2, compared with the same period a year before.

        P&G is confident enough that it introduced the Swiffer WetJet line last fall.

        Mr. Vierhile called Swiffer a great success, but hedged his bet on the WetJet.

        “If there's a place where that company has faltered, it's that they take an idea and they fall in love with it, then they duplicate it 20 different ways until the consumer is thoroughly confused,” he said. “I'm just having a hard time imagining people in the middle of a recession spending 50 or 60 bucks on that thing.”

        • ThermaCare: This thermal heat wrap is just hitting store shelves now after several months of online sales and extensive test marketing.

        P&G has deals with several professional golfers and baseball players, and hopes to give ThermaCare major visibility this year. It's also a favorite of Mr. Lafley, who uses it on his own balky back.

        “I think there's probably a niche market for something like that,” Mr. Vierhile said.


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