Dutch report hits Unilever sales

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The Independent Online
SALES of Unilever's new detergent have fallen in the Netherlands in the past week after negative reports by the Dutch consumers' association.

According to a survey carried out by the news agency ANP, sales have fallen 50 per cent. But one of the country's leading supermarket chains, Albert Heijn, calculated the fall at 10 to 20 per cent.

Last week's report from the consumers' association, the latest in a series of Europe-wide tests, took some observers by surprise because they had expected Unilever's Omo Power to get a cleaner bill of health. The report concluded that Omo caused unacceptable levels of wear and tear on clothes, especially coloured cottons.

As soon as the report was published Unilever criticised the findings, saying the association's conclusions were far harsher than they should have been given the test results.

Unilever's Dutch subsidiary has been affected relatively badly by claims from the rival Procter & Gamble that the new product damages clothes after repeated washing. Unilever raised the financial stakes in August when it offered Dutch consumers discounts of about 60 per cent on the powder for one week only.

Unilever yesterday admitted there had been a predictable decline in sales last week but said the size of the decline was less than in June, when the first negative reports appeared. The company was taking heart from the findings of a similar survey in Austria which appears to have come down in favour of the product.