retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

You’d think if there were one product category that would be safe from disruption, it would toilet paper. It has a specific and inevitable use, almost everybody in the developed world uses it (though the toilet paper industry points out that “70% - 75 % of the world’s population does not use toilet paper”), and most of the innovation has to do with how thick it is.

But the Washington Post reported over the weekend about a movement to eliminate the need for toilet paper, which would have economic advantages for people who cannot afford it as well as positive environmental implications.

The movement, the Post writes, is being powered by “bidet evangelists,” who “want to change the way Americans do their business, one bathroom at a time.”

Here’s how the Post frames the story:

“‘We have customers that tell us there was life before bidets and life after,’ says Jason Ojalvo, chief executive of Tushy, which sells bidet attachments online. ‘We think that there is no reason that bidets should not be mainstream in America. It’s ridiculous; they are everywhere but here.’

“Tushy’s target consumers, eco-conscious millennials, probably aren’t rushing out to install pricey plumbing fixtures in their apartments. The company’s bidet attachments are meant to appeal to renters and the cost-conscious. And its colorful, irreverent ads show a product that’s a far cry from the porcelain fixtures you’ll find in Europe and Asia. It’s a small, plastic box that connects to your toilet seat.

“Tushy isn’t the only company on the bidet attachment bandwagon. Online retailers, such as Brondell and BidetKing, have seen 15 to 20 percent growth in sales over the past two years. Daniel Lalley, a spokesman for Brondell, says there was a mystique behind bidets for so long that he hopes this uptick in sales means the taboo has been broken for good.”

The story goes on:

“Stand-alone bidets in Europe can cost hundreds or thousands. Installation can be expensive, too; it needs to be done by a plumber. Bidet attachments can cost as little as $30 (or as much as $400) and require little time or skill to install. Simple non-electric attachments from Amazon can range between $25 and $45. Brondell sells various styles of bidets, such as a slim-style attachment for $39.95. (The company also caters to left-handed people with attachments between $49 to $69.)

“Assuming a high usage of 20 minutes of washing per day, you can expect to see an extra addition of less than $2 in your water bill, Baeza says. A standard electric attachment from BidetKing will add an average of $45 to your electric bill annually … The real cost savings, fans say, come one toilet paper roll at a time, as users limit or even stop their usage.”

And that could be an Eye-Opener.
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