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    Shave Overhaul

    Following a frontal assault in the shaving category, retailers prepare for the next wave.

    By Christina Veiders

    Steely glints of a rebound in the shaving/grooming aisles of retailers have begun to appear recently.

    After months of fallout in consumer demand for razors and blades — more men letting their facial hair grow — and resistance to costly replacement cartridges, suppliers have countered with innovations in the form of products targeted to meet specific shaving needs and, counter-intuitively, price hikes.

    Although sales of most shaving segments are far from rosy, the bleeding appears to have stopped for razors and slowed in other shave segments.

    Razors are the bright spot in the shave/groom category. Dollar sales of razors across food, drug and mass merchandiser channels were up 7.3 percent to $474.6 million for the 52-week period ending Nov. 30, 2014, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI). This compares with a sales drop of 5.5 percent to $433.3 million during roughly the same period the year prior.

    The spike can be attributed in part to Gillette’s much publicized launch last year of the Fusion ProGlide FlexBall at a premium price point of $11.49, and a battery-operated version for $12.59. “FlexBall ups the ante with two pivots to help our best blades stay in the right position and adjust to the contours of a man’s face,” says Kurt Iverson, a spokesman for the Procter & Gamble brand.

    In fact, disposables have flourished during the past two years. “In the four months since launch, we’ve seen an improvement in U.S. blades and razors market growth, including more than a 25 percent spike in razor sales,” noted Jon Moeller, CFO of Cincinnati-based P&G, during a first-quarter earnings call last October. Additionally, Moeller told analysts that FlexBall technology will be extended to women this year through the Venus brand, “helping them to easily manage tricky spots such as knees and ankles.”

    Gliding to Success?

    According to Shannon Romanowski, a senior beauty and personal care analyst with Chicago-based research firm Mintel, P&G’s sales of Fusion ProGlide products have been solid. Citing IRI multioutlet data, she notes that Fusion ProGlide sales grew from $64 million in 2010 to more than $160 million in 2014, year to date through June 15. However, sales of other Gillette sublines are on the decline.

    “Consumers are willing to embrace new innovations and premium price points, but ultimately at the sacrifice of ‘older’ technology,” she says.

    The slow-to-rebound economy and men’s hair shave-styling trends have contributed to the depressed state of the shave/groom category over the past few years, but a more robust economy with low oil prices bodes well for consumer spending on new technology and products for daily grooming routines.

    Men’s propensity for facial hair, however, appears to be a fashion trend not about to give way any time soon to more clean-shaven faces. Those in the shave/groom business have countered by expanding their offering beyond the face to the full body and its parts. For instance, last year, P&G last introduced Gillette Body, which it says is the first razor designed for male body shaving, at an SRP of $7.97.

    “The demand is strong enough to support a razor that’s designed with additional safety and comfort features for tackling the male terrain,” says Gillette’s Iverson, “while still delivering a close shave on a variety of body contours — an even more demanding assignment than the face alone.”

    Schick, a brand of St. Louis-based Energizer Holdings, is said to have gained traction with its Hydro 5 Groomer, a four-in-one facial hairstyling tool touted for its “manscaping” abilities.

    Other Shave Categories

    Sales in all other shaving and hair removal segments were down, however: Blades fell 4.7 percent; shaving cream was of by 0.19 percent; and depilatories and electric shaver groomers both were down 1.5 percent, for the IRI reporting period that ended Nov. 30, 2014.

    In Mintel’s latest shaving and hair removal products report in the United States, the bulk of sales, 71 percent, were in replaceable cartridges and disposable razors. Over the past two years, replacement blade sales sank 5.2 percent, to the advantage of lower-cost disposables, which are up 1.8 percent, according to Mintel. The researcher valued the overall market for shaving and hair removal products at $4 billion in 2014.

    Bic, for one, has benefited in the trading down from costly replacement cartridges to disposables. “We see sales of disposable razors continuing to grow because they provide a high-quality shave at a great value,” says Beth Weinstein, trade marketing manager — shavers, at Bic Consumer Products USA, in Shelton, Conn. “We believe that 2015 will be a growth year for the category, driven by new products with more premium features.”

    To that end, the company is introducing the Bic Flex 5 shaver, featuring a Balancing Sphere for better shave control, as well as a precision edging blade and a head that pivots 40 degrees to help shave in tricky areas such as under the nose or around sideburns.

    Mintel anticipates modest growth across most category segments. “We expect changes in category pricing structures to shift demand back to other segments as retailers grow increasingly less willing to accept low-velocity, premium-priced SKUs,” Romanowski says. “As the disposable segment levels off, average consumer spending in the category is likely to increase slightly over the next five years.”

    Gillette’s Iverson, meanwhile, expects a pickup in the shave prep category. “We have some exciting innovation coming on that front,” he says. “Men are always on the lookout for ways to get a better shave — one that is safe for sensitive skin.”

    Mintel forecasts total market growth of 6.5 percent from 2014 to 2019, to reach sales of $4.3 billion.

    Despite weak performance in its shave/groom categories, Energizer Holdings CEO Ward Klein noted during last year’s fourth-quarter and fiscal 2014 earnings call that price increases in shave preps and razor blades were put through and will carry through to this year.

    By Christina Veiders
    • About Christina Veiders

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