Regular readers of Consumerist are familiar with what we call the Grocery Shrink Ray, that phenomenon wherein an item sold at X price at a retailer shrinks in size but still costs X amount. In the toilet paper and tissue industry it’s called “desheeting” or even “bulking up” instead but essentially means the same thing: less product, same price, which means more money for the item’s makers.
To wit: The Wall Street Journal points out that Kimberly-Clark’s new Kleenex is advertised as 15% bulkier. Great! But there are also 15% fewer sheets in that box than before things got all bulky. Kimberly-Clark told analysts this week that doing such a thing is expected to benefit the company in the second half of the year.
Instead of calling it a case of Grocery Shrink Ray, however, Kimberly-Clark Chief Financial Officer Mark Buthman said consumers are still getting their money’s worth, because the Kleenex and Cottonelle lines have been “building bulk, providing consumers with better, stronger, tissue so that you need fewer sheets to get the job done.”
Kimberly-Clark isn’t alone here, either: Georgia Pacific Corp. (Quilted Northern) and Procter & Gamble Co. (Charmin) both cut the number of sheets per roll or trimmed those sheet sizes in the past. P&G says it’s just about making Charmin thicker, softer and more absorbent, while Georgia Pacific claims similar motivations to desheet.
The number of sheets is big business, too, since Americans on average go through 46 sheets of toilet paper per day over the course of five potty breaks. That equals about $10.6 billion in toilet and tissue paper in the U.S. — so if you have to buy more rolls to get the same amount of sheets, that sales figure can only go up.
This could all be a moot point if you’re a fan of fewer, thicker sheets. Let’s take it to the numbers, shall we?
Toilet-Tissue ‘Desheeting’ Shrinks Rolls, Plumps Margins [Wall Street Journal]