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Colgate Product Intro Wilts

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Colgate-Palmolive’s big launch this year, Wisp, is losing some of its bite.

Wisp, the company’s bid to create a new beachhead in oral care among on-the-go Gen Yers, performed well when the disposable toothbrush was released in April, but sales have fallen off since then.

Sales started strong. By July 12, Wisp logged $9.3 million in sales, per IRI. (Such data includes only food, drug and mass merchandise stores.) In its first month alone, the product carved out “nine market share points,” Colgate CEO Ian Cook said during an analyst presentation in May. (Colgate reps declined further comment for this story.)

But since then, analysts tracking the product say sales have slowed. Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Ali Dibadj said the product’s sales peaked at $2.9 million in the third four-week cycle he tracked, but fell to $1.9 million in the most recent period ending July 11. Dibadj’s research is based on the Nielsen Co. numbers and excludes data from Walmart stores and warehouse clubs.

Tom Vierhile, a research director who tracks new products at Datamonitor, said Wisp’s slowed momentum has also cost it shelf space. In the early stages, Wisp was “rather hard to pigeonhole,” and so, retailers carried it in the oral care, breath freshening and confectionary aisles. But with consumer interest waning, real estate has likewise diminished, which means that repeat sales just aren’t hitting the mark, he said. Tellingly, competitors haven’t released copycat products.

“It had a pretty good going out of the gate, but once this thing has been on the market for a year, the novelty will be gone,” he said. That’s what happened to Oral-B Brush Ups, which, following its launch in 2004, has settled into a small market niche.

While that might be bad news for Colgate, which spent $5 million advertising the product from April through June of this year (excluding online, per Nielsen), analysts say it’s also a reflection of a poor market for introducing bold new products.

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