The domestic cleaning market in the UK: An overview

Bringing national branding and conformity of standards to the domestic cleaning sector, franchise brands are benefiting from increasing demand

There is no doubt that the domestic cleaning market in the UK is expanding. How fast and the factors driving this are difficult things to measure. Indeed evaluating the industry in total is almost impossible, given the size of the black market and the dearth of published research on it.

However MOLLY MAID estimates the domestic cleaning market in the UK to be worth £2.86 billion with more than 2.45 million (10 per cent) of British households being amenable to or employing some sort of help in the home. That said, reliable estimates are difficult to ratify since it is such a fragmented market, polarised by the leading professional operators at one end and the one-woman/man-band at the other. The majority of the market is populated by 'black market' operators - cash-in-hand workers, as well as smaller independent cleaning operators.

Leading franchise companies competing in the domestic cleaning market are: MOLLY MAID, introduced into the UK in 1985; Merry Maids, part of the ServiceMaster group; and Myhome Residential Cleaning, part of Myhome International plc. There are also a number of 'agency' operators such as Belle Casa, SelClene and Time for You who search for cleaners on behalf of customers and charge a fee.

Estimations of market shares are almost impossible. However MOLLY MAID estimates it has the largest share of the professional domestic cleaning services market which represents about five per cent of the total market.

The socio-economic factors that have led to a sustained growth in demand for domestic cleaning services over recent years include: increased levels of income, particularly the dual income households; a steady increase in the numbers of women employed outside the home; a shift in family priorities focusing on leisure over domestic responsibilities; a greater social acceptance of having help in the home; and more recently media interest in domesticity in the form of a spate of reality TV shows such as How Clean is Your House?

Research conducted a few years ago revealed that a clean home is high on the agenda of many households in the UK: over 60 per cent say that they're house proud and nearly 40 per cent admitted to doing some cleaning every day.

However, it also identified some barriers to using professional cleaners: over 50 per cent of people interviewed who don't have a cleaner say that they would feel guilty about someone else doing their cleaning; almost 20 per cent because they can't find anyone; and nearly 30 per cent because they can't afford it.

The future outlook for the market looks very healthy with the key factor driving this growth being the 'upgrading' of domestic cleaning services led by the well-known branded players. Growing public awareness and the desire for better service, reliability and quality means that the 'Brand' has become king and a real distinction is now being drawn between the product versus service offering of the independent cash-in-hand operators and the professionally- run companies.

Text: Pam Bader OBE