Economy Brands Threaten Always’ Market Dominance

By Uche Akosila
An24- These are not the best times for Procter & Gamble‘s Always Sanitary Pad as the number one sanitary towel brand in the Nigerian market is fast losing control of the sanitary towel market to the incursion of value-for-money brands.
According to Euromonitor, Always controlled a 76% marketshare of the sanitary protection market in Nigeria as at 2016. However, AN24 market survey showed a further drop as the patronage of the brand continue to decline with as retail price continue to soar, leaving room for more affordable brands like Diva, Feelite , Tama, Sofy, Joyland etc to thrive.  
Depending on the location, a pack of Always Ultra Pad (which contains 8 towels )goes for between 450 and N500, while Diva and Feelite , both produced by Marley Global Limited, go for N70 per economy pack ( two –in-one towels), summing up to  N280 for 8 towels, a whopping 44% price difference.
Although these relatively new brands do not offer their users’ maximum comfort, teenage girls embrace them because they are more affordable, especially given the harsh economy induced by the lingering Recession in the country.
The rivals also offer users convenience by serving their products in an economy pack, a time-tested strategy first introduced by Promasidor Nigeria in penetrating the then supposedly saturated diary market over 15 years ago. The Smart Alecs have also found a way of convincing retailers to display their products as a way of attracting buyers even as they tuck away good old Always and only produce it on demand.
A storekeeper in Ogba, Lagos, simply identified as ‘Mallam Musa’ who confirmed that Always is losing market to smaller brands said that young girls are mostly the ones switching to the new brands. 
“Na small -small girls dey buy am,” he said in Pidgin English.
Teenage girls who spoke with Brandafric revealed pricing was the major reason for their switch.
 Temi Balogun, 16, just finished her Senior Secondary. She told Brandafric that she switched from Always to Tama because of its rising cost though she admitted that, ”Always makes me feel much more comfortable.” So did Blessing Johnson, who disclosed she switched from Always to Feellite.
So far, the Always brand had ignored the emerging trend and cries of concerned industry watchers especially activists who worried that its prohibitive cost is keeping young girls out of school when they have menses, especially given the country low girl education burden .  According to the National Demography and Health Survey 2013, girls constitute 60% of 10.5 million out-of-schoolchildren in Nigeria.
Since its entrance into the Nigerian market in 1984, Always Ultra Sanitary Pad  has grown to become a mainstream brand favoured by women and girls across the socio- economic spectrum for the feminine protection it offers them via its unique slim towel with wings and gel and the brand promise of 8 hours of ‘No check, no stain,’ until its astronomical price increase (from N250 in 2015 to 500 in 2017) in the last two years made it exclusive to those in the A and AB class.
Despite the cash crunch, die-hard loyalists and teenagers from upper and middle-class whose families could still afford it like 14-year old Felicia Akingbade still patronize the brand.
“Recession didn’t affect my habit. They (her parents) see that I need it so they buy it for me,” Felicia volunteered.
Efforts to get reaction from Procter& Gamble proved abortive as they would not respond to emailed enquiries sent to them via their communication managers.  However, Always may not continue to count on its brand equity for too long.
If it remains complacent, counting on its first-in-the market advantage and does not respond to the threat by weaning its half-hearted consumers off their new fancies through its strategy reevaluation, it may find too late, they are gone for good.