Selling retail won't handicap franchise, says company.

Roto-Rooter has decided to throw its lot in with the likes of Drano and Liquid PlumrR with the recent decision to sell its drain cleaning products nationally at retail locations.

The main product offered by Roto-Rooter is a bleach-based clog remover. This will account for 80-plus percent of sales, while two additional products (a septic and cesspool treatment and root killer) are in the process of making it to store shelves.

"Our main goal in making this decision was to drive brand awareness," says Donna Schmadel, vice president marketing for Roto-Rooter Corp. "The products offered are another way to leverage the business. It is the perfect extension of the Roto-Rooter service."

The decision to go retail has been three years in the making, which included brand testing and consumer marketing, and combined committees of corporate and franchise staff to set up objectives for this new retail aspect of the company.

What resulted is a uniquely designed package for the Roto-Rooter products: a pipe-shaped neck for easy access to drains, a bottle design that inhibits splashing and an easy-grip handle to prevent slippage.

Other drain cleaner companies, such as Bio-Clean, an adamant industry-exclusive company since 1976, questioned Roto-Rooter's move saying the company might be doing its franchisees a disservice by removing the technicians' sales power.

But Schmadel insists that won't be the case.

"The products on shelves have never been offered by our service division. They're the types of products that cure minor hair clogs and drain stoppages. Roto-Rooter technicians will still sell the bacteria-based pipe shield off the back of their trucks as a preventative maintenance add-on."

Schmadel says that customers frequently go to the store for drain cleaners first before calling a professional. "If they're going to buy Drano anyway, they might as well buy Roto-Rooter products instead."

To further extend its reach for new clients, each bottle includes a discount coupon to use for a service call by a Roto-Rooter professional.

"We think we're going to do very well in the drain-cleaning category," concludes Schmadel, who says the market isn't very big to begin with. "All our brand research and customer reception to the Roto-Rooter name has been phenomenal so far."