Retail

Why The Razor Biz Is Booming

What’s the hottest new industry in retail?

How about the razor.

Seriously.

Products that offer men a highly specialized, more customized (and personalized) shaving and grooming experience are becoming all the rage, as attitudes toward shaving and personal grooming among Western men are beginning to change, according to research from Mintel that looked at this changing trend in Nov. 2015.

“A new approach toward facial hair grooming among younger consumers has directly impacted the men’s personal care market. Not only are we seeing an attitudinal shift in the frequency of shaving among men, which is lessening the stigma around facial hair, but we’re also seeing men take pride in their facial hair, resulting in a willingness to invest time and money in maintenance,” Margie Nanninga, an analyst of home and personal care at Mintel, wrote. “Despite the fact that many U.S. men report shaving less often, grooming innovations, such as cleansing gels or holding creams for facial hair, and facial hair grooming tools present opportunities in the men’s personal care market.”

Surprisingly enough, Mintel’s data found that 41 percent of U.S. men who use shaving products don’t shave daily but that when they do shave, these same men wanted a higher-quality product and a smoother shave.

And there appears to be big money in this growing industry, as a glut of startups and online-only brands rush to fill the space once exclusively dominated by the ubiquitous Gillette razor (Gillette’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, controls about 67 percent of the global razor market, according to The Wall Street Journal).

Nowhere better is this shift and boom in the industry illustrated than in cosmetics giant Unilever’s announcement late last month that it was acquiring the startup subscription razor service Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion.

Founded in Venice, California, in 2011, Dollar Shave Club was a revelation for many men who felt constricted and hemmed in by the limited offerings of Gillette’s series of shaving products — not to mention the hefty price that an eight or 12-pack of those blades would often run you. But since there was so little competition, what were guys going to do about it?

To many men who jumped on board the Dollar Shave Club bandwagon, the variety offered in terms of razors and other products was more varied than Gillette, the quality better and the prices cheaper.

Plus, for a monthly subscription fee, Dollar Shave Club would ship a month’s worth of razors and other shaving products to your door, so you didn’t need to worry about having to use a dull blade on the morning of a very important meeting or running out to the store at the last minute to replace it.

Which is why the idea so quickly took hold with so many men who wanted a little something more from their shaving experience (and at a better price).

“Hilarious online ads passed along social networks allowed Dollar Shave to create instant customer recognition — in other words, a brand — far more quickly, and for far less money, than a shaving company could have managed a decade ago,” Farhad Manjoo wrote in a column for The New York Times when the Dollar Shave deal was announced in late July. “Online distribution allowed it to get products into consumers’ hands without a costly retail presence. In fact, by cutting out on retail and shipping products to people’s homes on a subscription basis, the company made buying shaving products more convenient than going to a store.”

As with any good idea in the business world, with success came a host of imitators trying to glom onto market share.

Harry’s, an online shaving subscription service very similar to Dollar Shave Club but with a little more style and panache, was founded in New York in 2013 to insert itself into the men’s grooming market. Target recently announced a deal to sell Harry’s products in its stores and online beginning later this month, and Harry’s blades and razors still typically retail for less than Gillette’s.

And there are plenty more upstarts waiting in the wings to challenge Procter & Gamble’s hold on the market — somebody’s probably founding a startup somewhere that makes a men’s grooming product as you read this — such as Walker & Company’s Bevel brand, a startup founded by Tristan Walker that caters to the coarse- or curly-haired shaver by offering products that promise to reduce razor bumps (Bevel products are largely marketed toward black shavers).

Then, there are products like Baxter of California and Fellow Barber that offer designer shaving creams or aftershave lotions, companies that offer beard soaps, oils and tonics or, for the real do-it-yourselfer, you can just buy a good, old-fashioned straight razor for about $300 online if you’re in the market for that extra-close shave (Mintel’s data found that 27 percent of men still use a professional barber for a shave, while 20 percent of men age 18–34 used some sort of pre-shave preparation oil or cream before they even began).

Guys, however you want to shave and whatever you’re looking for out of your shaving experience, if there’s not already a product out there for you, it’s probably on its way.

Mintel predicts that the men’s personal care market will grow to about $4.7 billion by 2020.

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