Retailer Features / Trend Features

Those Were the Shaves

August 17, 2011

Private label shaving supplies are bouncing back from the bad economy.
Back in the olden days, when girls were girls and men were men, a shave (and a haircut) cost two bits. Now that price has risen drastically, due to many factors, including inflation, cost of materials, the want of a cleaner, closer shave and a more hirsute population.

Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t quite on the mark, but shaving products have seen a slight sea change over the past few years. Part of that came from the shaving cream segment when Colgate, a long-standing staple in the shave cream business, decided to fold its production of the popular item.
“Years ago, Colgate and Barbasol used to fight for price on 11-ounce cans of shave cream,” explains Bruce Barnett, vice president of national sales for Vernon, Calif.-based Filo America. “They don’t do that anymore since Colgate went out of the shave cream business. So prices on shave cream have gone up, and private label is now in the game. Where private label wasn’t prevalent before, it’s now becoming prevalent in that category, and [in] shave gel especially.”

And a growing private label presence is never a bad thing. Particularly if you’re a private label manufacturer. Putting out a strong product is key; making sure the right strategies and marketing are behind it are essential as well.

“As always, this is about achieving the economies of scale needed to sustain good levels of profitability in order to reinvest and continue developing improved products,” says Jimeet Patel, marketing director for U.S. Pharmaceuticals Corp.

And obviously private label is doing something right because private label shaving sales showed increases during the 52 weeks ending April 17, 2011, according to the Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group.

Private label blades overall lathered up $104.4 million in sales, showing 7.0 percent growth for the time period, and private label shaving cream sales rose to 6.1 percent during that time.

While the total private label razors category cut it close to the same increase in sales that razors in general did (26.2 percent versus 28.2 percent), they still only hold 3.3 percent of the total razor category share. And private label razors brought in $87.7 million in sales, as well as featured an average price that was almost $2 less than the national brand. While this may seem like a bit of a dull edge for the category, with such small amounts of the category in their hands, a (razor) sharp eye can tell you that the truth is it means there’s ample room for private label growth.

Additionally, just like any product, notes Barnett, shaving supplies have a season, and retailers and manufacturers can expect to see an uptick in overall shaving supplies in the warmer months when people are hitting the beach, wearing less clothing and showing off a little more (smooth) skin.

In 2008, American Safety Razor (ASR), one of the leaders in private label shaving products, had a chokehold on the razor category under the Personna, Matrix, Magnum, Mystique, Solara and GEM brands. But as the economy started losing its footing, national brands like Gillette and Schick turned their focus to the value segment, pushing ASR out of the spotlight, leaving an open door for private label manufacturers to walk through.

It’s no surprise then that when the economy went into total free fall, consumers clutched onto their wallets for dear life. And while national brands were offering their own value brands of products, consumers still were reaching for private labels, and private label shaving supplies were no exception.
“Private label business as a whole has grown during the recession,” says Patel. “Shaving supplies are growing with it.”

And what’s better, now that the economy is showing signs of improvement, those who tried private label are sticking around.

“Always in a recession people look for a price alternative,” notes Filo America’s Barnett, adding that as people are looking for jobs, many need that clean-shaven look for interviews, a boon for the business. “People are repeating on their purchases, and they know the savings [of private label], and they want to keep saving their money.”

As the dust settles from the shaving category shake-up, and new product production becomes more prolific with a stronger economy, private label shaving products are poised for clean, close category growth through consumer repeat buying and being more competitive against the national brands.
Eye On National Brands
The past couple of years have seen upheaval on the national brand side of shaving supplies. First Colgate decided to drop out of the shaving cream business, leaving a wide-open door for private label to pick up market share. And in August 2010, American Safety Razors, a leader in the private label shaving supplies category, filed for bankruptcy due to slowed growth and increased competition.

One would think, then, that the field would be up for grabs, and that smaller private label companies would be at an ideal jumping off point to grab even more market share from the national brands. And to some extent, own brand manufacturers are doing just that. But true to form, more often than not they are still looking to the national brands for trends that speak to customers.

“Private label shaving products continue to take cues from national brands by offering products with similar numbers of blades in razors and comparable ingredients in shave creams,” says Jimeet Patel, marketing director for U.S. Pharmaceuticals Corp. National brands have put more of an emphasis on battery-operated razors and razors with soothing emollients integrated into the cartridges, he says.
“Shaving is an irritating process, and people will probably be willing to pay more for a product that soothes skin and keeps it feeling supple,” Patel notes.

The number of offerings and the variety available from national brands also continues to outpace those of private label products, which tend to predominantly offer products that are national brand equivalents to the national brands’ bestsellers.

With products containing additives that speak to sensitive skin, like shea butter or glycerin for a smoother shave, or the consumer demand for a more appealing smelling shaving experience like Gillette’s lemon-lime scented shaving cream offering, expect that as the national brands test out the popularity of these products private label will follow suit.

Products that offer a natural shaving experience, like the Schick Intuition naturals shaving cartridges, also are popping up more often, tapping into an overall consumer trend toward products that are lighter on chemicals and easier on their skin. 

Taking a look at the retail level, it’s also clear that shelling out big bucks at the salon for waxing services isn’t necessarily on consumer’s minds, as new products such as Veet wax strips for legs and body, and wax strips for face, have debuted on store shelves.

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