August 14, 2014 admin

Wall Street Journal: P&G Bets People Will ‘Swash’ Clothes

Procter &Gamble is betting shoppers will spend nearly $500 and find a spot in their homes for a machine more than 4 feet tall, all in the name of avoiding laundering or dry cleaning their favorite blouses and slacks.

Swash is a new release from the consumer-products giant, maker of Tide and Febreze, in partnership with Whirlpool. The tall and thin device, which is large enough to hold one men’s extra-large suit jacket, uses gel-filled pods to help neutralize odors, remove wrinkles and restore a garment’s fit.

It isn’t meant to replace laundering or dry cleaning, the companies say, just delay them. That convenience comes with a hefty price tag: $499 for the machine, plus $6.99 for a 12-pack of pods, each good for one use only. The machine is sold at Bloomingdale’s and will be available next month at other retailers.

Swash’s pods come in three scents: Awaken, Recharge and Unwind. Proctor & Gamble

The goal is to snag what P&G sees as a new laundry consumer: the re-wearer, says Mike Grieff, P&G’s research and development director for new business creation and innovation. Two decades ago, the idea of wearing clothes several times before washing them had a negative stigma, he says.

“Today, it’s smart. Why would I wash something and go through the process if it’s really, really not that dirty?”

It’s a new brand at a time when P&G has said it would be cutting half of its brands to focus on its biggest businesses. P&G declined to comment on the future of individual brands, including Swash.

P&G originally tested the re-wear idea and the Swash brand several years ago, aiming it at college students who didn’t want to do laundry. That iteration of Swash was a line of consumable products, including odor- and wrinkle-removing sprays.

The new Swash system is designed to appeal to a higher-spending group of fashion-conscious people, with closets full of hard-to-care-for items such as sweaters, embellished tops and premium denim. It also targets anyone with a “nice but limited wardrobe,” says Mr. Grieff, meaning they are prone to re-wearing. Early testing suggests interest in Swash by both women and men.

The device itself is sizable, which P&G says is necessary to fit large garments. Earlier prototypes were deemed too small by testers, Mr. Grieff says.

With the hopes that users would keep the device where they get dressed, in their bedroom or large closets, P&G designed the machine to look like a piece of furniture, Mr. Grieff says. It comes in two colors, a dark gray and an off-white, and has a slightly textured surface that is meant to resemble fabric. The rounded top is an invitation to casually toss over “the clothes you might have on deck,” Mr. Grieff says.

Swash users begin by placing a piece of clothing on the hanger inside the device and securing the edges to the corresponding tension clips. Four nozzles then spray the garment with a gel-like solution, hydrating the fibers to remove wrinkles and restore fit. Thermal heating technology dries the garment in 10 minutes, with a 15-minute setting for heavier pieces.

A big challenge, Mr. Grieff says, was meeting the 10-minute use threshold, which consumers said was about how long it takes them to shower. Thermal technology keeps 95% of the heat generated inside the machine, which speeds up drying and minimizes the power needed, according to Mr. Grieff. (A Swash machine can be plugged into a standard 120V outlet. No exterior water hookup is needed.)

Swash doesn’t remove stains and won’t make anyone forget their washing machines. But it is meant to introduce a new phase in garment care. “It’s like a microwave for your clothes,” Mr. Grieff says. “You can’t use a microwave to cook Thanksgiving dinner, right? But there’s a lot of fantastic things you can do in the microwave relative to the stove or the oven.”

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