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Distributors carry so many restroom supplies that bundling is just a natural fit for this product category. Bundling, also called system selling, is the practice of grouping together similar products. Customers buy more products, usually at a discounted rate. But still, more sales mean bigger profits.

"You are increasing your sales by increasing the amount of products you’re offering your end user," says Lance LaFave, owner of Newton Distributing in Newton, Mass. "So your ticket might increase, and your customer is happier and more vested in you because you’re becoming a partner to them. You’re helping them solve problems rather than simply providing product.”

A standard restroom bundle typically contains a minimum of soap, towels or hand dryers, and toilet tissue; however, variations are endless depending on the customer and market served.

For example, Dade Paper restroom bundles consist of air fresheners, trash receptacles and trash can liners, cleaners, soaps, towels and tissue, as well as dispensers for soap, towel and tissue products. Although the categories remain the same regardless of the market served, sales reps recommend different types of products within those categories, depending on the client’s needs.

“It comes down to the premium quality vs. a value-conscious quality,” says Laura Craven, director of communications and marketing for the Miami-based distributor. “That’s where things differ depending on who the customer is.”

Dade Paper has also put together bundles focused on hand hygiene and high-touch surface cleaning to prevent the spread of illness in a facility, as well as bundles of environmentally preferable products.

“There’s no ‘one size fits all,’” says Craven.

For LaFave, product bundles often differ according to the customer’s region.

“Areas have different water pressure and different water quality,” he says, “and we have certain faucets and flush valves that respond better to certain water pressures and water quality. Different facilities also have different levels of vandalism, so we would choose products to perform best based on vandalism levels.”

Product groupings can also vary depending on the clientele, says Randy Niblett, vice president of sales and operations for ProStar in Bryan, Texas. ProStar restroom bundles include towels and tissues, cleaners and disinfectants, deodorizers, floor care products, and skincare products, including soaps, lotions and sanitizers. But the distributor has also sold urinal mats as part of a bundling program.

“Urinal mats are becoming more popular, especially in sports venues and arenas where you have high traffic and limited time to clean the restroom,” he says.

ProStar has sold urinal mats together with urinal screens, deodorant blocks and air fresheners as part of an odor control package for restrooms.
According to Niblett, distributors often overlook many of the products that could be included in a restroom bundle.

“Most distributors have about 90 percent of the products that go in a restroom, but they probably sell only 20 percent of those products to the account,” he says. “There’s a big gap between what’s available and what’s sold. If you go in and just sell them toilet paper and towels, you’re missing opportunities [to increase sales].”

For example, Niblett has sold bacterial odor-digesters for floor drains as part of a restroom bundle.

“People walk over them every day and don’t sell them,” he says. “It’s one of those products that slip by the wayside. Everybody’s worried about spraying disinfectant cleaner in the toilets and urinals, but they miss the floor drains that may be causing the real odor problem in a restroom.”
Distributors also tend to overlook high-ticket items that usually don’t generate high sales.

“As technology advances, you see self-contained systems that completely sanitize and disinfect restrooms,” says Niblett. “That can be part of your system selling as well.”

But some distributors shy away from these restroom cleaning systems, he adds, because they replace other products sold as part of a bundle.

“There’s a reluctance to present it,” says Niblett, “because the fear is they’re going to sell one product instead of 15.”

In addition to adding new products to their bundles, distributors can profit by combining different system-selling programs. Newton Distributing, for example, carries electrical, plumbing and janitorial equipment and can bundle various product combinations from these three categories if needed.

“Schools, office buildings and hospitals frequently replace faucets and flush valves, and those are very high-ticket items,” says LaFave. “We’re always looking at cost savings initiatives for the customer, so if they need a replacement faucet — even if it’s only four or five faucets — we’re going to give them the benefit of that other business we get when we price them.”

If distributors offer their own private label line, these should also be included in system selling to help guard their business against competitors.

“Proprietary systems — whether they’re skincare, towels or tissues — should always be part of a bundle,” says Niblett. “They protect you long-term in the account against other companies coming in and taking your business.”

Distributors have countless options for creating restroom bundles. The facility type, geography and specific individual needs will all play a role in determining which products to upsell to customers.

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.