Hairy Situation?

October 10, 2008
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Category Review: The competition is heating up in the shaving supplies category, but retailers still have a real opportunity to expand store brand market share.

A quick glance at recent sales data for a number of shaving supply categories might lead one to believe consumers are slacking off when it comes to a daily shave.

For example, data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI) of Chicago show unit sales declines for the total cartridges, disposables and shaving cream categories during the 52 weeks ending May 18, 2008 (U.S. supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, club stores and c-stores). Private label didn’t fare much better, posting only slight unit sales gains in disposables and shaving cream.

But the data are not necessarily an indicator of an anti-grooming movement. According to Mintel International Group Ltd., Chicago, both national and private label brands are gaining competition in the form of alternative hair removal methods, boutique retailers and the service industry. In its “Shaving and Hair Removal Products - U.S. - May 2008” report, Mintel also notes that spas and salons are catering more to men and offering the “old-fashioned barbershop style of shave.”

Mintel also points to a number of consumer trends influencing the overall shaving supplies market, including heightened interest in natural/ environmentally friendly products, as well as upscale options. (See the sidebar for a look at Mintel’s consumer preferences according to gender.)

Smooth Opportunities

Despite formidable competition - from both inside and outside the store - retailers still have a real opportunity to expand private label market share in the shaving supplies category. With the exception of the disposables subcategory, store brand penetration in shaving supplies is still in the single digits, and private label’s price-value proposition could be just enough to shift consumer loyalties away from the national brands.

“Although the U.S. shaving market is a mature market, it still responds to technological shaving advances and niche products [such as] HeadBlade, etc.,” notes Vince Nelson, president and CEO of San Diego-based Pace Shave. “The new-technology products will continue to flourish under private label banners, as well as the old standbys such as twin-blade and triple-blade disposables that continue to provide a good value.”

On the shaving cream side, private label shaving gels are up against some pretty stiff competition in the form of greatly reduced pricing by at least one major national brand, some industry observers say. That particular brand is able to pull it off by making up for lost dollars in the more lucrative blades and cartridges category.

But Paul Lieber, founder and CEO of Royal Labs Natural Cosmetics Inc. of Johns Island, S.C., believes new private label opportunities in shaving cream won’t be found in traditional gels or foam-type offerings, but instead in upscale cream formulations sold in a tube format. Such offerings appeal to both men and women, particularly when offered in a natural-type format.

“It gives more lubrication on the shave, so you get a better shave without the chafing and cutting,” he says. “There are so many products in the marketplace today that you have to have a point of difference. If you’re a private label and you’re just coming out with the Gillette knockoff shaving gel, I don’t believe you’re going anywhere.”

Hair Today, Then Gone

Developing the right mix is only part of the equation for success in the shaving supplies arena. To ensure the store brand offerings that are “hair” today are gone tomorrow, Nelson recommends including large-count packages of cartridges/disposables in displays because today’s shoppers are making fewer trips to conserve on fuel.

“I would urge that retailer to provide the consumer with the opportunity to purchase, as a high-impulse, high-count value pack of shaving blades,” he says. “Seasonality is a very large factor in women’s shaving, especially in the spring and summer months. In order to take advantage, retailers should look for multi-packs and/or pack-ons on female shaving products,” he adds.

A sampling program helps to entice shoppers to try tubed shaving creams, notes Lieber. But he doesn’t go as far to recommend a store-sponsored shaving session in the middle of aisle 11.

“A gift with purchase or a coupon on related products would work,” he says. “Also, maybe try to get to the wife since she’s the one usually buying the products.” PLB

Sidebar: Shaving Preferences, by Gender

In its “Shaving and Hair Removal Products - U.S. - May 2008” report, Mintel International Group Ltd., Chicago, points out a number of current hair-removal preferences stated by men and women survey respondents. Highlights among these findings, based on Mintel’s research and the analysis of data from Simmons NCS (Simmons Research, New York), include:

• Younger men tend to use razors more than older men, who prefer electric shavers.

• More than half of the male respondents who use razor blades use triple razor blades, with 84 percent of them using a Gillette product.

• When it comes to shaving cream, 59 percent of male respondents use aerosol foams, while 50 percent use gels (to make sense of the numbers, we’ll assume some men go back and forth between formats).

• Younger women are much more likely to report using disposable razors, razor blades, hair removal products and shaving cream overall.

• Black and Asian women respondents were more likely to say they use certain formulations of shaving creams made for sensitive skin.

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