Aye, there’s the scrub

Some bath products have standout sales in the health and beauty aids category. So, what’s trending with Canadians in the mood for a soak?


The health and beauty aids market in Canada may be lukewarm, but bath products are steaming out.

Recent Nielsen figures show the bath additives category, which includes foams, bath salts and oil extracts, grew 10% in dollars for the 52 weeks ending March 7. Likewise, sales of bath accessories (think sponges, poufs, gloves and bristly brushes) rose 12% over the same period.

These double-digit hikes are all the more remarkable given that analysts say the bath-and-shower category in Canada is already highly saturated. Still, as the Nielsen figures show, Canadians are spending more on their bath. That’s largely because they are spoiling themselves more at home.

“People are indulging more, but they’re bringing the spa home rather than spending on spa services,” says Gina Tonack, health and beauty buyer at Richmond, B.C.-based drug- store chain London Drugs.

The trend is similar on the other side of the country.

“We’ve noticed people are looking for inexpensive ways to pamper themselves,” says Carlo Scartozzi, vice- president of sales at Alpen Secrets, a Montreal-based company that sells bath and body-care products to several drugstore and grocery chains across Canada, including Walmart Quebec, Jean Coutu, IGA, Rexalland Overwaitea.

“In pharmacy, we have seen 1.5 linear feet, or 10%, more shelf space being devoted to our products over the past year,” says Scartozzi.

He notes that while bath products are doing well, most of the growth is in larger-format bodywash, new fragrances and boxed soap. Alpen Secrets has seen 20% growth in dollar sales this year, which is mostly from pricier items, such as foam baths, Epsom salts (it recently launched foaming Epsom salts) and large-format bodywash, says Scartozzi. “Most growth is from exports to the U.S., Africa, UAE and Philippines, but about 8% [of that] growth is in Canada alone.”

Retailers have also noticed consumers are buying more luxury products for the bath–especially those containing natural and organic ingredients.

Amber Quiring, co-owner of Saltspring Soapworks, has definitely seen the trend. Her company, based on Saltspring Island, B.C., makes artisanal soaps and small batches of bath and other body-care products, sold in its own stores, as well as in spas and boutiques across Canada. The company has been in business for 36 years, but Quiring says this year has been an especially good one.

“We’ve seen about 10% to 20% growth in sales overall. Some of my wholesale customers have doubled their orders since last year.”

Part of the growth has come from Saltspring’s new products. For example, its rhubarb- scented bubble bath has taken off, and its bath salts have also been doing really well this year, says Quiring.

“We’re selling heaps of Saltspring Soapworks’ rhubarb bubble bath,” says Laura McLarty, owner of Flush Bathroom Essentials, in Sidney, B.C., which sells both bath products and bathroom-decor goods.

McLarty says her sales of bath salts have increased 50% since last year. “Any clean-scented products are popular right now,” she says. Unisex fragrances such as mint, sage and lavender are selling well, she adds. Scartozzi agrees.

“These fragrances allow men to have the spa experience with- out smelling too flowery,” he says.

Scartozzi points to another influence in today’s popular bath-product scents: “People are using gyms more, and scents like eucalyptus are often featured in gym steam rooms or saunas.” As it turns out, that translates into purchases for the home bathroom.

Other bath-product retailers, such as Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, are also soaking in the positive growth. Sales of Lush’s bath bombs, for example, are blowing up.

“Our Bubbles Bar growth is 65% over last year, and our bath bombs have seen overall growth of 185% over the previous year,” says Erica Vega, brand and product trainer at Lush Canada.

But not all stores are experiencing the same boom in bath products.

“We haven’t seen the same growth as the Nielsen figures suggest, but our sales of bath products have always been strong,” says Sarah Dobec, public relations and education outreach co-ordinator at The Big Carrot, a natural food store in Toronto.

“Our customer base has always embraced the idea of a therapeutic bath. We have always sold lots of Epsom salts, bath oils and soaks.”

At Market Organics in Ottawa, general manager Mona Kitz knew her active customers were already buying lots of Epsom salts and “anything for muscle recovery.”

So, when a co- worker suggested she stock a more potent version, magnesium bath flakes, she put it on the shelves. “I went from not having them at all to ordering 24 to 48 [units] every month for the past year,” she says. “They’re really popular. My distributors also ran out of stock.”

Two brands of bath flakes she carries are Ancient Minerals and Life-flo.

Seems even though bath and shower is a saturated category, some parts of it are still bubbling up.