Anglo-Dutch giant Unilever has offloaded the domestic cleaning arm of Myhome. Despite Unilever’s sale of the cleaning arm after an 18-month trial, diversifying from packaged consumer goods into services is still important for the group. Myhome’s laundry and dry cleaning businesses remain alongside Unilever’s Ch’a tea shops and Lynx barber shops for now. The company would be wise to keep developing service offerings.

Anglo-Dutch group Unilever announced on Wednesday that it has sold the home cleaning arm of its Myhome subsidiary to Chores Group plc for an undisclosed sum. Unilever, which revealed in August that it was looking to sell the business, will receive cash and shares in Chores.

Initially set up in March 2000, Myhome’s offering consists of cleaning, laundry and dry cleaning services to cash-rich, time-poor consumers in affluent parts of southwest London. This pilot run was seen by Unilever as a precursor to a wider roll-out, and is based on a strong Internet presence. After an 18-month trial run, however, having failed to show a profit, Unilever decided the cleaning arm was surplus to requirements.

Unilever is also reviewing the future of Myhome’s laundry and dry cleaning activities, and expects to announce its plans before the end of this year. It is currently opening a dry cleaning store under the Myhome name, in an attempt to expand the brand from the Internet onto the high street.

Unilever remains one of the most active branded packaged goods manufacturers in experimenting with service concepts – alongside Myhome and Ch’a, its foray into teashops, it has also opened a number of Lynx barbershops in London to raise awareness of the male personal care brand. Competitors are also waking up to the potential of services, with Henkel looking to experiment with hairdressing salons, and Procter & Gamble now testing Juvian, a collection and delivery laundry service in the US.

Given the growing move towards service concepts, it seems unlikely that Unilever will abandon its interests in the field. Although not strictly aligned to the Anglo-Dutch giant’s focus on core brands, it would seem rash to leave an area with this much potential. It is too early to judge at this stage: the imminent decision on the future of Myhome’s laundry and dry cleaning services will serve as a better pointer to Unilever’s future direction.

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