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Fabric Conditioners: The Key to Boosting Retail Sales

In the UK, the market for fabric conditioners is worth almost £430 million a year as people seek delightful fragrances for their laundry. There are various options available, from floral to citrus and beyond, with products ranging from subtle to bold. It's important to stock the right combination of products for your store to meet the needs of different shoppers.

Matt Stanton

4 minutes

/ 14th June 2024
  • Category Insight
  • Convenience
  • Sales & Distribution

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

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 ambiance 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 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 take care of their clothes to help them last longer. The second segment, making up 30% of 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.[1]

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 to 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

Whilst the economy is starting to show signs of recovery, many household finances are still under pressure and feeling uncertainty about the future, and this is driving money-saving behaviours. Many people are still 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 – a trend known as the ‘lipstick effect’ – and fabric conditioners have a role to play. People can improve the ambience in their home simply by making it smell nice, and using fabric conditioners and air care products is an affordable and effective way of to doing it, so some shoppers are trading up to premium products to improve their experience.

The biggest brands

The top two brands are Lenor and Comfort, with annual sales of £200m and £135m respectively. The next well-known brand is Fairy at £62m, but private label takes third spot in the rankings at £71m when all the different private label brands and products are added together.

The top-selling SKU in the UK is Comfort Blue Skies 83-wash fabric conditioner. It’s a 2.5-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 33-wash, 990ml format with a £2.49 price mark. Comfort Pure 83-wash fabric conditioner ranks second in the market, followed by Lenor Spring Awakening ‘Outdoorables’, which is a premium trade-up SKU, and then Lenor Spring Awakening in 2.9-litre form. These are all available in various sizes to suit your store.[2,3]

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 £118m in sales, so they’re all important to have in your range too.

Scent beads make up the lion’s share with £89m and are in huge year-on-year growth (+42%). Lenor and Fairy are the dominant brands here (£65m and £16m respectively)[2] so you should prioritise Lenor Fresh, Lenor Spring Awakening and Fairy variants and then add others if you have space. Remember these more likely to be bought by an Experience shopper, who are also likely to be looking for premium liquid fabric softeners so make sure they’re within easy reach.

Fabric refresher spray is next in line, with Febreze being most popular. Cotton Fresh and Pet are the top scents, followed by Blossom & Breeze.[2]

Complete your range with tumble dryer sheets and ironing aids. Tumble dryer sheets are almost exclusively Lenor and private label. Comfort, Dylon and Lenor are the three biggest ironing water brands, although private label plays a big role here too.[2]


1: Bespoke brand manufacturer research (P&G)
2: Nielsen – Total Market – Value Sales – MAT 25th May 24
3: Nielsen – Impulse – Value Sales – MAT 25th May 24