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America's Latest Craze: Flushing Money Down The Toilet On "Luxury" Toilet Paper (And Going Commando)

One can understand the allure of "aspirational" wearables, no matter how idiotic one looks when peeking from under a Borg-esque (and now flopped) Google visor or when taking a selfie while chatting to their "New Paranomral" iTimex: the whole point is simply to appear more affluent, more powerful, and generally more important than the guy next door who isn't dressed like a Borg zombie and actually has a life. What, however, we can't explain is the relentless surge in sales of "luxury" toilet paper.

As the BezosPost reports, US sales of what the industry calls "luxury" rolls — anything quilted, lotioned, perfumed or ultra-soft, from two- to four-ply — climbed to $1.4 billion last year, outpacing all other kinds of toilet paper for the first time in nearly a decade, data from market research firm Euromonitor International show.

The luxury market is one-fourth the size of the standard TP market, but its prominence in Big Wipe is growing faster than many industry watchers expected. Luxury toilet paper sales have grown more than 70 percent since 2000, and they're expected to keep growing faster than all other categories every year through at least 2018.

So while 80% of the population is seeing their disposable income decline, and is perfectly happy to smash the TV the next time some clueless econopundit says wages are in fact rising (or will any second, just be patient), that one, ultra tiny portion of America whose assets are now approaching $100 trillion is officially running out of ideas what to spend their money on, so in lieu of wiping their ass with $100 bills, they will use the next best thing.

But what is most surprising, is that unlike the reverse psychology of aspirational products that has unleashed upon the world such moronic products as a $17,000 rose gold iWatch which unlike a comparably priced Rolex Dayton will be obsolete in one year when the next generation of iWatch replaces it, the "luxury" rolls are not prohibitively priced, so even if one is trying to impress someone with their exclusive ass wiping inventory, it will hardly generate much of the desired jealous response:

This style of bath tissue offers a far different kind of luxury than, say, a $17,000 watch: It's the same ol' stuff, just thicker, softer and more absorbent than other rolls. Though it's a little pricier, analysts said, nearly everyone can still afford it, making it a surprising barometer for how confident Americans are that they can afford a minor splurge.

The result: "trickle down" bubbles may be a total failure for society as a whole, but they certainly have made an impact on one's toilet bowl:

Before last year, luxury toilet paper's sales growth last beat out the other rolls in 2000 and 2005, both boom years for the U.S. economy and consumer spending. The luxury toilet paper business is expected to grow 9 percent over the next five years, compared with 6 percent for the cheapest "economy" lines.

Just like with the Apple Watch, when penetrating, so to say, an unmet market (indicatively, the toilet paper market is about $9.7 billion) it is all about crating a buzz through marketing and hype:

To compete for the luxury crowd, paper giants are paying heavily to advertise just how luxurious their rolls can be. To promote Cottonelle's new "CleanRipple" design, which spokesperson Bob Brand said would "be a differentiator in the premium bath tissue space," parent company Kimberly-Clark has sprung for TV ads that suggest users of its new high-end blend will be so clean they can "go commando." The firm also paid for reunited boy band New Kids on the Block to play a Cottonelle-sponsored concert last month in New York.

And that's how you reach the American public: "is your ass so clean that you would go commando?"

 

As(s) some brilliant advertising company closed the circle on that question, "Go Cottonelle, Go Commando"

 

Those appeals to bathroom grandeur seem to be paying off. Sales of the three-ply Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, which last year rolled out improvements to its "silkiness," jumped 30 percent in the United States last year over 2013, said Anna Umphress, a spokeswoman at consumer-goods firm Georgia-Pacific, which makes Quilted Northern and Angel Soft.

It would appear the "fantasy" of walking around without underwear has hit home with the target demographic: "sales of the three-ply Quilted Northern Ultra Plush, which last year rolled out improvements to its "silkiness," jumped 30 percent in the United States last year over 2013, said Anna Umphress, a spokeswoman at consumer-goods firm Georgia-Pacific, which makes Quilted Northern and Angel Soft."

There is some hope: not everyone is an "aspirational" tool:

Luxury toilet paper is not without its challenges, of course. It doesn't exactly have the same word-of-mouth power of other high-end purchases. And because it offers mostly superficial benefits, analysts question just how long luxury toilet paper's winning streak can continue.

 

"Premiumisation is a tool to drive that value, but there are limits to how far that can take you," said Svetlana Uduslivaia, Euromonitor's head of tissue and hygiene. "At the end of the day, for most consumers, toilet paper is toilet paper."

But not for everyone, and certainly not the Fed, which may have failed in its mandates (at least those not involving pushing the Apple Sachs "Industrial" Average to nosebleed records) but when it comes to forcing richer, if dumber Americans, to flush their money down the toilet it has most certainly succeeded.