Men’s shaving has been going through a rough time. Despite healthy growth of 6% in 2012, the men’s toiletries category has been catching up, and in 2013 the two categories will be equal in size, with men’s shaving expected to lose its dominance in men’s grooming for the first time ever. Razors and blades account for over 70% of men’s shaving sales, so largely determine the category’s vitality. As male shaving habits change in North America and Western Europe, and Asia Pacific remains an under-developed market, what does the future hold for men’s shaving?
Gillette remains razor sharp
Since the acquisition of Gillette by Procter & Gamble back in 2005, the company’s global dominance of men’s shaving has remained unchallenged, with it commanding nearly a 60% share of the category. In regions such as Latin America, the company’s share rises to nearly 80%, but in markets like China, India and Western Europe it is less than 50%, or just above in the latter. With such a big hold over the global market for men's shaving, changes in the brand’s strategy affect the entire category.
The vogue for stubble, the relative non-hairiness of Chinese men, growing acceptance of the unshaven look in the workplace and, most importantly, the ever increasing cost of shaving have all been damaging to men’s shaving and Gillette alike. Furthermore, a slow innovation pipeline, with only three major new product launches since 2005, one of which was a collaboration between Gillette Venus and Olay, indicates that Procter & Gamble’s financial issues have affected its R&D activities.
Nonetheless, in 2012, Gillette introduced its first major innovation in two years - the Fusion ProGlide Styler, a 3-in-1 battery-operated razor which serves as both a shaver and styler. This indicates a new era in men’s shaving, with razor manufacturers creating more sophisticated multi-functional products with higher unit prices in an effort to compensate for lower demand and longer repurchasing cycles.
Cuts and bruises in the competitive landscape
While Gillette has been sitting comfortably at the top of the global rankings, competition has been heating up below, with Bic enjoying double-digit increases in the US while holding on in Western Europe where Gillette has been losing share to private label and electric shavers. Brands like Bic have stepped up their level of innovation, introducing offerings like the Bic Hybrid Advance, a 3-blade razor system with a handle and cartridge replacements to bring it into direct competition with Gillette and Schick, while at the same time slogans like ‘More for your money…Always’ have struck a chord with consumers who are tired of paying a premium even for just cartridge replacements.
Like Bic, Super-Max has also been enjoying strong gains but in Asia Pacific as rapid urbanisation has brought with it the associated trade up from the local barber shop in rural areas to branded razors. This has been particularly evident in India where an increasing number of young middle-class men have been looking to showcase their new found status and look the part for their white-collar jobs.
In the US, where shaving less frequently and more cheaply is becoming the norm, with both value and volume sales struggling, a new trend has arisen, that of subscription sites. For example, the Dollar Shave Club offers razors delivered to your home, while sites such as Automated Man offer system razors and grooming products delivered to one’s home for a small monthly fee, providing cheaper alternatives for cash-strapped consumers.
Private label has also achieved further penetration in both North America and Western Europe as consumers continue to seek value for money. In the US alone, private label grew to account for a 3.6% share of the category in 2012, up 24% since 2008. Similarly, in Western Europe, private label holds nearly 9% of the category, a whopping 40% increase in share since 2008. With large German retailers such as Aldi and Lidl strengthening their positions in Southern Europe, as well as local players moving into previous white space, private label is on the rise not only in men’s razors and blades but across most beauty and personal care categories.
Does fortune favour the blades?
As men’s shaving will continue to lose ground to men’s toiletries, fuelled by rapid increases in deodorants and a slowdown in men’s razors and blades, much is expected to continue to change in the shaving landscape. The recent trend which favours the unshaven look is opening up new opportunities for innovation, such as male-specific products ranging from manual/battery-operated trimmers like Gillette’s ProGlide Styler and beard and moustache colourants to products which nourish and smooth facial hair, such as conditioning gels/foams/lotions and styling gels.
Furthermore, over the medium to long term, the desire for an unshaven look is expected to continue, especially in Western Europe where increasing unemployment coupled with stubble being in vogue will continue to damage growth of razors and blades. However, the biggest concern for men’s shaving companies will be if this trend catches on in Latin America, a market skewed towards fashion trends and celebrities, with increasingly more celebrities and sportsmen, from Brad Pitt to Lionel Messi, often being seen with stubble or even a full-grown beard in some cases. Over the very long term, however, as with every trend, the wheel will turn and suddenly the fashion will be passé!