Paper products and the search for a normal-sized roll

16Jun09

If you’ve browsed the paper products aisle in a store lately, or looked at those items online, you’ve probably seen the trend towards “big” or “double” or “giant” rolls. In theory, by packing more square feet of paper toweling or toilet paper into each roll, they can offer more value for the dollar.

That’s all fine and good, but it certainly makes comparison shopping harder for the consumer. Why? Well, every vendor has their own measure of roll size. One company might sell “double” rolls that are twice the size. But another company might offer both “jumbo” ones that are only 50% bigger than regular size, and “giant” ones that are twice the size of normal rolls. And of course, there can be big variations from manufacturer to manufacturer in what the normal-sized product contains.

Taken together, the trend towards larger roll sizes makes it very hard to comparison shop. Perhaps that’s the idea. But retailers who want people to actually buy something should make sure to provide unit cost comparisons at the shelf level — and update them when something is on sale, too. Otherwise, I believe a lot of people get stuck in so-called analysis paralysis, and leave the store empty handed.



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