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5 Reasons Why Fabric Conditioners Are So Much More Exciting Than You Think.

Why would anyone want to read a blog about the laundry category? In fairness, that’s a very good question, and if you’ve read this far you’re already doing well. But the category is more exciting than you might think.

Matt Stanton - Head of Insight

5 Minutes

/ 12th April 2022
  • Sales & Distribution
  • Category Insight


Why would anyone want to read a blog about the laundry category? In fairness, that’s a very good question, and if you’ve read this far, you’re already doing well. But the category is more exciting than you might think.

If you’re a retailer, a buyer, or a salesperson, getting the laundry category right in store will help you make more money, and show me a retailer, buyer or salesperson doesn’t want to do that? If you’re none of those things… well, it’s still spectacularly interesting and you should definitely keep reading anyway.

Last time (click here) I told you all about laundry detergents and how to choose the right products for your store. This time we’re covering fabric conditioners.

How Much the Laundry Category is Really Worth
The Laundry Category is worth more than
£ 1.4 B
in the UK Market
Fabric Softeners comes in at
£ 430 M
Best Selling Brand Comfort Had Sales of
£ 159 M
Last Year in the UK


A Nation of Scent Lovers

Who doesn’t love nice-smelling washing? With the right combination of fabric conditioner liquid, scent-booster beads, and tumble dryer sheets you can create a veritable explosion of fragrance that gives your home an ambience to reflect (or perhaps to counteract) your mood. There’s a smorgasbord of scent options available, from floral to citrus, oriental, herbal, outdoorsy, or just plain old ‘crisp, clean washing’, and they range in strength from ‘subtle’ right through to ‘hit you square in the face’. So, with the opportunity to make your home smell like a flowerbed in springtime, a summer meadow, or like someone planted an entire lavender bush in your front room, it’s a small wonder that the fabric conditioners market is worth almost £430m a year in the UK.

Outcome, Experience and Protector… what’s that all about?

There are three types of shopper. The most common is the ‘Outcome’ shopper, making up around 50% of all UK fabric conditioner shoppers. These people are looking for products that offer freshness, softness and also take care of their clothes to help them last longer. The second segment, making up 30% of the total, are designated ‘Experience’ shoppers – those who enjoy a fine fragrance and want superior scents as well as extra softness and freshness. The final 20% are those who want a gentler product, perhaps because they have sensitive skin or just because they’re looking for a more discreet fragrance.

You need to consider each of these three shopper types when constructing your product range. Outcome shoppers are mostly interested in entry-level products such as Comfort Blue Skies and Lenor Spring Awakening. Experience shoppers, on the other hand, are much more likely to trade up to more premium products such as Comfort Ultimate Care and Lenor Outdoorable, and also buy into scent beads and tumble dryer sheets. Finally, ‘Protector’ (sensitive) shoppers will look for hypoallergenic products with milder scents and on-pack claims about being gentle on the skin. Their go-to brands are Fairy and Comfort Pure.

Affordable luxuries

There is huge financial pressure on households at the moment, and this is set to deepen through 2022. Many people are postponing big, discretionary purchases and foregoing luxury experiences such as trips away and eating out. In times like these, shoppers turn to more affordable luxuries as a way of improving their day-to-day lives, and fabric conditioners have a role to play. With more people spending more time at home, perhaps because they’re having fewer nights out or less frequent holidays, people can improve the ambience in their home simply by making it smell nice. Using fabric conditioners and air care products is an affordable and effective way of to doing it, and many shoppers will look to trade up to premium products to improve their experience.

The biggest brands

The top two brands are Comfort and Lenor, with annual sales within a hair’s breadth of each other at £159m and £157m respectively. The next well-known brand is Fairy at £27m, but private label takes the third spot in the rankings at £58m when all the different private label brands and products are added together.

The top-selling SKU in the UK is Comfort Blue Skies 85-wash fabric conditioner. It’s a 3-litre pack so it’s not suitable for all types of store but there are other sizes to choose from, and the No. 1 SKU in the independent convenience channel is the same product in a 21-wash, 750ml format with a £1.99 price mark. Comfort Pure 85-wash fabric conditioner ranks second in the market, followed by Lenor Spring Awakening 83-wash (a 2.9-litre pack) and then Lenor Unstoppables ‘Fresh’ scent beads 264g. As with Comfort Blue, each of these products is available in different sizes to suit your store type.

It's not all about the liquid…

Liquid fabric conditioner makes up the majority of the total category, but fabric sprays, scent-enhancer beads, ironing aids and tumble dryer sheets are worth a combined £78m in sales, so they’re all important to have in your range too.

Scent beads make up the lion’s share with £45m, dominated by Lenor Unstoppables. Prioritise Fresh and Spring Awakening variants and then add others if you have space. Remember these are more likely to be bought by an Experience shopper, who is also likely to be looking for premium liquid fabric softeners so make sure they’re in easy reach.

Fabric refresher spray is next in line, with Febreze being the most popular. Cotton Fresh and Classic are the top scents, followed by Blossom & Breeze, and there’s an antibacterial variant that’s popular too. There’s also Dettol Spray and Wear, which is both antibacterial and helps to release creases from your clothes – you can add this to your range in larger stores if you have space.

Complete your range with tumble dryer sheets and ironing aids. Tumble dryer sheets are almost exclusively Lenor and private label, although there is an option from Comfort Intense too. Comfort and Dylon are the two biggest ironing water brands, although private label plays a big role here too.