Growth in bug battling products
by Alison Bowie
The jan/san sector has grown from traditional janitorial and sanitation into new areas of food, hygiene and security, with added emphasis on supplies for the breakroom, and a greater demand for antimicrobial properties
When I was asked to provide a feature on jan/san (janitorial and sanitation) for OPI, I must confess to feeling a little over-awed by the prospect.
It’s been a while since my last foray into this massive sector and jan/san today is a far cry from the jan/san many resellers recognised even a few years ago.
To say the sector has grown and diversified recently is the biggest of understatements.
Anyway, always up for a challenge, I decided to enlist the help of the suppliers – those who are at the forefront of new developments and market trends – and boy, did they have a lot to say on the subject!
But in order to stop me suffering from information overload, there was one, very simple, yet important question to ask them early on: "What is your definition of a jan/san product-
The reply received from many of those involved in the article summed up just how this section of the market has evolved in recent years.
A new definition
The definition of jan/san may, for instance, be heavily influenced by where resellers are around the globe. For example, some dealers in the UK may still think of jan/san primarily as toilet rolls and cleaning equipment, part of their facilities management portfolio.
In contrast, their US equivalent could see jan/san as an umbrella term for personal hygiene, plus safety, security items and food and beverages such as tea and coffee.
Mike Miller, Vice President and General Merchandising Manager – janitorial and breakroom for US-based wholesale distributor, United Stationers, believes the product category is a large and complex one to define.
"The traditional definition was any item used to clean, disinfect, and sanitise a work environment, to include products that related to the daily maintenance of that clean environment," he says. "Personal hygiene and safety/security items are also included in the broader definition of jan/san. Our definition has expanded beyond this to include disposable foodservice and breakroom items, including coffee, but does not directly include other food and beverage items."
For manufacturer Fellowes, jan/san is seen as "a product that provides superior cleaning and sanitising benefits within an application that is appropriate for office space."
While Jim Prestage, Market Development Director for hand sanitiser specialist, Gojo, recognises the definition of jan/san is "quite broad" and goes on to say the name refers to janitorial and sanitary supplies, with the category including paper products, trash can liners, soaps, cleaners’ disinfectants and cleaning utensils such as mops, brushes and buckets.
Cleaning products are very much at the heart of the definition of jan/san for AF International’s Marketing Manager, Karen Harrison.
"Janitorial/sanitation can be broken into segments, depending on which industry and can include paper products and dispensers; waste receptacles and liners; chemicals and general cleaners; floorcare and maintenance; brooms and brushes; large cleaning equipment; skincare and hygiene; healthcare amenities; and facilities maintenance," says Harrison.
"Chemicals and general cleaners and maintenance are categories that AF International fit into. Our product offerings can be defined as ‘cleaning and sanitising of workstations, office equipment and multi-media to help maintain performance and aid office hygiene’," she adds.
In short, "we call it cleaning" says Chris Whiting, SP Richards’ Director Sales and Marketing, cleaning and breakroom supplies.
However, the company has taken a completely new approach to the product category in a bid to make it a more attractive selling proposition for resellers.
"We have repackaged the category and refer to it as cleaning and breakroom supplies (CBS) instead of janitorial and sanitation," he reveals.
The new CBS category now includes cleaning chemicals, cleaning tools, paper products, air fresheners, hand soap and sanitisers, floor mats, trash can liners, refuse containers, vacuum cleaners, safety & security supplies, first aid and medicinal, snacks and beverages, coffee and accessories, breakroom appliances, food service disposables, fans, and heaters, says Whiting.
Doug Skeggs, Marketing Director at Systemcare Products in the UK, recognises a new kind of language around jan/san and believes this has largely replaced the traditional definitions of the category.
He explains: "A few years back I would never have considered Systemcare as a jan/san channel provider, but there is so much channel merging now that many companies have widened the offering and now sell a more diverse range of products covering the responsibilities of two, maybe three category managers in a major global distributor."
He adds. "These days it’s become very difficult to categorise a manufacturer precisely with channel blurring and the fact that hygiene is now a category driver in the whole cleaning product sector."
"The traditional idea of the jan/san supplier is well gone," he continues. "We are not a toilet rolls, brushes, mop and washing up liquid supplier in the traditional sense of jan/san, but on the periphery, with a growing range of hygiene and surface cleaning products to reinforce our core product ranges of equipment cleaning products."
Systemcare, a member of the ITW Group of companies, is a private brand provider of equipment cleaning, maintenance and hygiene products, with a growing range of niche hygiene products, including hand hygiene gels, wipes in flow packs and new wet wipe containers for surface and hand cleaning.
High profile hygiene
Hygiene is certainly the buzz word with end-users at present and one of the sector’s key drivers, believes Skeggs.
"In our particular sector, hygiene in the office has become the key market driver, with more and more high profile education and marketing campaigns being launched by the major global brands in the category," he says.
"In the forefront of this market development has been Fellowes in Europe and the US, and Durable in Europe with Computer Cleaning Week, who have both achieved market dominance in their channels of supply, quickly replacing the older established brands in the channels they operate in," he adds.
"Hygiene in the workplace is in the forefront. Rather than just a desk or workstation that appears clean, many end-users want it to be germ free as well."
The end-user’s increasing interest in and awareness of health and hygiene issues at home and in the workplace is certainly something that Fellowes believes offers a great opportunity for resellers.
"We are generally experiencing growth across the full product range and many markets, largely driven by increased awareness of the need to clean office environments particularly," says Fellowes’ Louise Shipley, Senior European Marketing Manager, Office Productivity.
"Office workers are spending longer hours than ever at a desk and computer; for example, our research shows that more than 50 percent of people eat at their desk, and in many markets, cleaning contractors are requested not to clean desk surfaces for fear of moving papers, etc."
She adds: "These factors all add up to the accumulation of dirt and bacteria on desk surfaces and the need for effective and easy-to-use products which offer protection and a quick, efficient cleaning solution."
As a result, the company has seen an increasing demand for its anti-bacterial cleaning products.
Shipley explains: "With so many health-related stories in the news like Bird Flu and MRSA, people want their office environments, as well as their homes, to be as clean and hygienic as possible, and this is where a range like Virashield really comes into its own."
Fellowes’ Virashield range features Byotrol, a patented technology that "helps protect against bacteria and viruses for up to seven days".
Another trend reported by the business is the growth of cleaning kits. "Typically, kits offer a simple, one-stop solution for consumers and are ideal for people who work in different locations like home and office, for example," explains Shipley.
"With people working longer hours, eating at their desk and often being responsible for cleaning their own desk tops, kits are a great solution," she adds.
Resellers can secure add-on sales here by focusing on educating the customer, whether that be about a product’s anti-bacterial properties or its environmental credentials, advises Shipley. "Education is key," she stresses. "Where products are environmentally responsible or carry additional benefits like anti-bacterial properties, for example, then dealers should make sure they call out these differences – whether this is on a catalogue page or brochure or a website, or face-to-face.
She continues: "In the same way, highlight the full range of solutions available for different technologies like screen cleaning wipes, telephone wipes and kits for technology devices and keyboards, for example."
AF International claims to have been one of the first players in the IT and OP markets with its cleaning range, and the company’s Harrison Harrison sees plenty of great sales opportunities for suppliers and resellers in this product sector.
"Laboratory tests have proven that cleaning office equipment and desks with specially formulated products, can kill 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria; yet research highlights the fact that only one in 20 installed PCs are regularly cleaned," she comments.
"Businesses everywhere are waking up to the fact that offices are a breeding ground for germs and to the health and economic issues associated with the spread of bacteria in the workplace. Everyone should be de-bugging their office, as well as maintaining the standard of machinery."
Of course this increased interest in hygiene around the home and place of work is great news for dealers looking to sell more jan/san products to the end-user, "but only if they know enough about the products they are promoting, says Harrison.
She adds: "We work very closely with resellers in order to educate them in how the products are used and where.
"We also work on link selling. If the reseller is selling inks and toners, for example, then AF has a product to complement this. The AF range is made up of small consumer products which although they do not cost a great deal, do generate the reseller excellent margins."
Harrison believes that link selling is key to success in the jan/san sector, as is the need for resellers to work closely with manufacturers.
Harrison’s other reseller tip is to speak to their customers about maintaining equipment, especially in today’s tough economic climate where end-users may be looking to save cash. This includes keeping equipment clean to help keep it running longer.
"Consumers need to be educated to maintain and look after their equipment to prolong its life span. It is cheaper to maintain equipment than to buy new, and with the current economic climate consumers will choose to prevent break down by taking extra care of their equipment," she adds.
At SP Richards, Chris Whiting believes that jan/san or CBS as the company refers to it, is in excellent health, and provides plenty of opportunity for the committed reseller.
"The entire category has shown very robust double digit growth for the last four years and we forecast that to continue for many more years into the future," he enthuses.
"This is an ideal ‘bolt on’ category for dealers to sell wider and deeper into their current account base."
For any dealers willing to put in the hard work, the rewards are great, says Whiting who suggests that they appoint an individual to oversee jan/san development within the company.
"The most successful dealers have appointed or hired a CBS champion to drive the process internally," he explains.
One of the emerging trends he has noticed in the past year has been the arrival of touchless washroom systems that are helping to drive new business.
With many public restrooms offering hygienic no-touch dispensing for sinks, hand towels and soap, this was taken a step further last year when Kimberly-Clark Professional unveiled its JRT Electronic Coreless bath tissue dispenser.
"The electronic revolution has entered the bathroom stall," announced the company’s Richard Thorne, director of the washroom business, North America. "It’s a major step forward in restroom hygiene because it eliminates the need to touch the dispenser during use."
The system works by automatically dispensing a pre-measured amount of toilet paper when users place their hands under the dispenser.
Its benefits, says Kimberly-Clark Professional, include a 20 percent reduction in toilet paper used, through controlled dispensing, plus programmable sheet lengths and a manual feed option.
Mike Miller, vice president and general merchandising manager, janitorial and breakroom, at United Stationers, quotes ISSA figures when asked for his views on the current health of the jan/san sector.
He says: "According to latest ISSA statistics from 2006, distributor sales rose 7.4 percent from 2004 to 2006…slow, steady growth. The largest market segments are industrial (13.9 percent market share) and education (13 percent market share).
"The fastest growing segment is commercial office buildings (12.5 percent market share) as consumers are consolidating vendors and not using the building service contractors to supply product and cleaning services as often."
He also says that ISSA data showed the fastest growing type of distributor between 2004 and 2006 were "specialty distributors" made up of suppliers whose core-competency is not jan/san, ie resellers.
"Their growth is attributed to their ability to bundle various types of products and services. Office products dealers make up a large share of this ‘specialty distributor’ growth," he says.
If dealers want to maximise sales of jan/san product, they need to convince end-users of their ability to be a complete one-stop-shop, believes Miller, thus saving the customer time and money.
He explains: "They need to show that by offering to provide a one-stop shop proposition including non-traditional jan/san products, they are thereby reducing the end-user’s soft costs associated with doing business with multiple vendors, purchase orders, invoices, deliveries, etc."
According to Doug Skeggs of Systemcare, current market conditions all show a decline in regional distributors.
"There appears to be rationalising/downsizing of suppliers taking place in this area," he says. "Over the last few years many of the local jan/san suppliers have disappeared as many resellers now sell the concept of single source supply and purchase themselves from global suppliers, cutting out traditional regional distributor chains."
"The regional companies have been unable to compete on price or supply with the globals which has resulted in a dramatic decline of the traditional jan/san regional supplier in recent years, coupled with growing market penetration for the global office product companies as they devote more pages to jan/san in the catalogues."
The more specific niche manufacturers, such as Systemcare, who have developed their own categories, have been more successful, believes Skeggs.
He also warns: "Resellers and wholesalers need to make sure the company they are buying from and their products are complying with primarily the EU/US labelling and quality regulations."
Another key issue for resellers is that of products’ claims to kill bugs, he says.
Skeggs urges dealers to really do their homework before sourcing a product: "There are many products on the market making various claims relating to the bug kill, biocidal capabilities, etc. Don’t accept claims that a product will kill this bug or that bug, or that a product has biocidal features without seeing the full efficacy claims.
"It’s a concern to me that you see, from time to time, misleading advertising features and labelling on products. There is a lack of knowledge generally," he comments. "Sales people tend to sell from catalogues containing 10,000 or so products so it’s difficult to have in-depth specifics on a particular product or application.
He continues: "Cleaning and maintenance is now ‘cleaning, maintenance and hygiene’ in the office.
"The educated end-user/buyer is bombarded with information and they rely more now on the salesperson to actually specify the correct application, more so than in previous generations. The market is there and the category is growing and has potential for all office product resellers.
"We have just finished another financial year where most of our key customers have achieved double figure growth."
So, with jan/san appearing to be in rude health, how does the next 12 months look for dealers working in this sector?
Fellowes’ Shipley believes dealers should be focusing on the benefits of having a clean and healthy workspace, and the low investment needed to do this.
She explains: "People don’t like dirty desks or workspaces and they certainly don’t want to be off sick or have employees off sick due to germs and bacteria. Cleaning products like multi-surface wipes in economy size packs are small investments, but they can help to create a more productive workspace. Clean = healthy = better business!"
And she says manufacturers and dealers should be thinking green.
She continues: "Our research shows that environmental considerations feature quite significantly as a purchase decision criteria when it comes to office and home products, including cleaning.
Manufacturers can and should be doing everything they can to create products which are responsibly made."
AF International anticipates continued demand for its traditional products, Phone-Clene, Screen-Clene and Spraydusters in the coming year. Harrison explains: "I believe we are starting to educate people both at home and in the office to clean, and these types of products will always thrive."
She adds: "The working environment has changed over the last few years and more people are working on the move, working from home or their car. With 61 percent of UK homes having the internet, home office hygiene is also on the increase.
Harrison also predicts that green issues will continue to impact on the product sector, giving the manufacturers with an environmentally friendly offering the edge.
And SP Richards’ Chris Whiting and United Stationers’ Mike Miller also agree that green products will continue to prove popular with end-users in the year to come.
"Anything ‘green’…chemicals…foodservice paper…restroom paper…supplies and accessories are growing in importance and desirability. As governments and municipalities mandate the purchase of a higher percentage of green products to reduce the impact on the environment, this growth trend should increase at a faster rate," he says.
But he warns: "Additionally, if the governmental agencies put green standards in place, current ‘green’ products may not be compliant, changing the landscape again as new products come to market and existing, non compliant ones drop out."
Getting a nation to clean up its act
Marketing Manager Stewart Anderson explains the success of Durable’s Computer Cleaning Week in the UK
OPI: What’s the concept behind Computer Cleaning Week?
Stewart Anderson: Computer Cleaning Week was initially devised to educate consumers on the benefits of effective and regular cleaning of PC equipment and telephones and to also support and assist our resellers with innovative marketing programmes.
Other objectives were to create a consumer friendly website with tips and tricks on how to clean and to also create a consumer database for ongoing communication, and to significantly grow the Durable brand which would then be synonymous with computer cleaning.
These objectives have been met in every one of the past three years with unique and different communication tools being utilised for each campaign.
Last year, it was also suggested by The Guardian that Gordon Brown should allocate one day of Computer Cleaning Week as a national public holiday in the UK!
Computer Cleaning Week was also devised to interact with the consumer and inject a bit of fun into everyday office life whether at the home office or the office.
OPI: What’s the secret behind gaining such a high profile?
SA: High profile personalities such as Dr Hilary Jones fronting the campaign in 2008, Kim Woodburn (Kim and Aggie fame) in 2007, and getting coverage on BBC TV and BBC radio and national press. Dealers and resellers supporting our campaign with local and national promotions and product sampling.
In 2008 we reached an audience of approximately 24.5 million people, in 2007 our reach was 30 million and in 2006 we reached an audience of 22 million people. No other branded manufacturer of computer cleaning products can claim this level of success with such innovative marketing and customer support.
In the past two years Durable has been fortunate to win 4 awards for the marketing and success of Computer Cleaning Week – BOSS Marketing Excellence Award 2006, Dorset Business Award Marketing 2006, OPI Marketing Award 2007 and BOSS Marketing Excellence Award 2008. Additional consumer research was carried out in year one with a targeted focus group which provided us with extremely valuable consumer data on what requirements were needed. This year we also conducted more consumer research with You Gov.
This year we produced a cleaning movie that is placed on YouTube for consumers to view and rate and this has been instrumental in our success.
OPI: Three years down the line, promotion of the event must be get easier?
SA: This year we have had many consumers contacting us direct to ask when Computer Cleaning Week will take place.
There is also now an awareness that Computer Cleaning Week occurs in the third week of September every year.
Dealers are now asking us for the date for next year’s campaign and want to know what additional support we can offer them.
OPI: How has it benefited your company?
SA: Increased sales year-on-year, maintenance of brand leader position within OP and EOS channels and increased relationship with dealers and resellers. Other product micro sites have benefited from Computer Cleaning Week, namely display panel website – unique visitors up by 470 percent, signage site up by 280 percent.
OPI: How does jan/san fit into your business? Has its importance grown?
SA: Computer cleaning products are a key category with our business portfolio and remain so for the foreseeable future with new product development currently taking place. New products are due for launch at Paperworld 2009.