The Clean Cycle

Today's laundry-organization products put a premium on saving space

By David Gill

Pro-MartThe Pop-Up Flip Hamper from Pro-Mart provides extra storage, value and functionality.

With many U.S. consumers looking to maximize their home spaces, laundry-organization products that take up less room, without losing any of their quality and functionality, have become prized items.

These are consumers who need to save every bit of space that they can while doing the job of organizing and washing their clothes. Noting that the overall category of storage, space management and laundry products now garners more than $1 billion in annual sales, Lisa Falzone, marketing director of Casabella, said the category now "is being fueled by consumers' needs to simplify their lives, reduce clutter and have practical organization solutions that fit their lifestyles and make the job of doing laundry easier and less stressful."

CasabellaCasabella's Nesting Storage Caddy organizes detergents, bleaches and softeners for a more clutter-free environment.

Casabella's laundry lineup attempts to draw in those shoppers looking for a clutterless environment. Among them are the Nesting Storage Caddy, which organizes detergents, bleach and softeners; the Storage Tote for smaller items; and the Grook, which hangs on a door and has hooks that can hold up to 22 items.

Regarding the Nesting Storage Caddy, Falzone said, "Laundry rooms often double for mud rooms in a lot of homes, so having organization items with lots of different spaces to hold things is critical. A bucket and caddy with a handle that nests can turn into a lifesaver when storing and moving liquid laundry detergents, pods, stain removers, dryer sheets and lint brushes."

According to Pro-Mart, products that provide increased capacity are part of the company's mission to provide consumers with maximized value. These include larger-sized laundry bags, hampers and sorters. "We have appealed to the growing trends of shoppers looking for new products that maximize utility and value, and integrate large and multifunctional use," said Sam Sabounjian, the company's project manager.

Honey-Can-DoHoney-Can-Do's line of laundry hampers come in bright colors to help relieve the prevailing white in most laundry rooms.

Pro-Mart's most popular product, the Pop-Up Flip Hamper, attempts to provide extra storage, value and functionality all at once. "This particular product works as a hamper while clothes are dirty, and converts to a basket-organizer once clothes are cleaned and folded," Sabounjian said.

A desire for better-managed space has proven to be a sales driver for collapsible laundry products. "People are moving to collapsible hampers, laundry hangers and drying racks," said Jack Cohen, founder and owner of Vanderbilt Home Collection. "We offer laundry drying racks that are easy to assemble and fold completely flat so they can be slid easily under the bed." Vanderbilt currently has laundry products under its license with Samsonite, and is currently working to start another, similar program with American Tourister.

Honey-Can-Do has also addressed the need for smaller items. "Items that utilize corners and fold up when not in use are popular because they can be stored in tight spaces," said Steve Greenspon, the company's CEO. Among Honey-Can-Do's products in this area are a line of hampers that fit easily into small spaces.

VanderbiltThe Samsonite Dry Rack from Vanderbilt. Dry racks have become popular for their collapsible and environmentally friendly properties.

"The need for small-space items is twofold," Greenspon said. "People are downsizing their homes due to the recession, and they are realizing they don't need as much space as they currently have. Secondly, the population in general is becoming more urban, and people in small-space environments want to better utilize their space."

Along with space saving, style has emerged as a key trend in laundry organization, which is most obvious in the number of products that come in different colors. Honey-Can-Do's hampers--which come in bright colors such as red, blue, green and orange--are examples of how laundry-organization vendors are trying to infuse design and style in their products.

Color helps relieve the consistent whiteness seen in most laundry rooms, according to Greenspon. "People do not need to have an all-white laundry room," he said. "In today's marketplace, there are many more color options available. They want variety. They might use safe color choices when it comes to larger appliances, but with accessory items, they want to add a little bit of color to their space."

Adding color and style can, in one way, make the laundry-organization product decorative, according to Falzone. "One of the hot trends in the market is organization that doubles as something else and can be kept out in the open," she said. "Think wooden or plastic storage that actually acts as an ottoman or room separator. Almost like Legos, a consumer can build a multitude of solutions that fit their needs."

The "green" trend (ecology, not the color) has also taken hold in this category, and has helped bolster demand for drying racks, according to Sabounjian. "Environmental consciousness has increased the popularity of drying racks, while also reducing consumer energy costs," he said. Drying racks are also highly functional, "perfect for delicates and hand washables," he added.

As in many housewares categories, laundry-organization vendors have found that pushing up the bar on innovation produces pluses for their business. New concepts at Vanderbilt include items such as over-the-door racks that fold completely, providing additional drying space without taking up extra space; an expandable drying rack that folds completely and expands to four feet wide; and a collapsible laundry basket, which folds to completely flat.

"Consumers have shown a willingness to pay extra for these features," Cohen said. While, in Vanderbilt's case, having Samsonite on the label counts for something, it's not the total equation. "We don't add the name without adding quality and functionality," Cohen said.

One other trend in laundry organization is the evolution in where shoppers are buying these products. While mass and specialty retailers are the traditional venues for these purchases, other channels are coming to the forefront, according to Greenspon.

"The Internet is growing at a much faster pace than brick and mortar" in this category, he said. "We have also seen the hardware and home-center channels put a strong focus here."

David GillDavid Gill | Senior Editor

David Gill covers home textiles, small electrics housewares, personal-care products, cleaning products, mattresses, consumer electronics and major appliances. He also reports on retailers and writes about the business and financial side of both vendors and retailers. He has more than 30 years of experience in business journalism, and has worked for other publications and websites that cover consumer products from both the manufacturer and retailer sides. His outside interests include sports (he is a big fan of the New York teams and of British soccer), cooking, movies and theater. He occasionally enjoys a good cigar as well.


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