Manufacturers are growing the men’s grooming category with new products

BY Carol Radice

It no longer is a taboo for men to take care of their appearance. Gone is the mindset that men are not interested in anything more than basic grooming options. In its place is a more evolved understanding that, given the opportunity, men want to buy products that help them look and feel their best.

As assortments have changed, so too has the preferred destination for men to buy their grooming products. According to observers, the category — once dominated by brick-and-mortar stores — is seeing business slowly gravitate toward online merchants.

Officials at Wahl Clipper, for example, said that while it is true that sales of clippers are up more than 10% this year in stores thanks to a trend toward self-barbering, the increase is even greater online. A similar picture can be painted for trimmers. Steven Yde, vice president of marketing, North American consumer division at Sterling, Ill.-based Wahl, said that his company’s professional business has been exploding, a leading indicator, he noted, that in addition to online, consumers are buying grooming tools from non-reporting channels as well.

“Culturally, men continue to want a more casual appearance and this extends to grooming,” Yde said. “As long as beards are on-trend and men continue to wear their hair short, at least on the sides, interest in grooming and related products will remain strong.”

Wahl recently extended its reach in men’s grooming, moving beyond clippers and trimmers with a line of beard wash, balm, pomade, shave cream, shampoo and body wash.

Officials at Procter & Gamble, whose World Shave Headquarters is based in Boston, said that when it comes to shaving, men want closeness and comfort first, which the company focuses on when introducing new products. That said, Pankaj Bhalla, director at Gillette & Venus, North America, noted the facial hair trend is still going strong, which he attributed to several key factors, including men’s’ desire to reflect their individuality and masculinity, as well as a shift from traditional work culture to a more casual and flexible environment.

“More men are choosing to have a range of facial hair styles, and are developing an interest in facial hair styling and the tools that go with it,” he said. Facial hair may be on-trend, but P&G’s research shows shaving still represents the largest segment of the men’s grooming category. For instance, even among younger men, 43% of guys age 18-to-24 years old and 39% of men age 25-to-34 years old are clean-shaven. In comparison, the next largest segment is 22% representing those who shift between clean-shaven and stubble, followed by beard and mustache with 12% of men age 18-to-24 years old, and 16% of men age 25-to-34 years old adopting this look. Only 1% of men choose to refrain from grooming entirely.

The company’s latest efforts have fallen under its “One Size Does Not Fit Every Man” motto, offering products that can address unmet needs for large portions of the shaving population. Its latest launch took aim at sensitive skin. In November 2018, Bhalla unveiled Gillette Skinguard at the brand’s Global Innovation Summit.

“One size does not fit all when it comes to razor,” Bhalla said. “That’s why we’ve innovated across our portfolio this year.” Gillette Skinguard features a plastic bar that sits between two blades in the center of the cartridge, absorbing pressure from the hand and smoothing skin, while raising the blades to stop irritation. The launch of the Skinguard razor was accompanied by the introduction of Gillette Pure, a line of shaving cream and gel free of alcohol, parabens, dyes and sulfates. These innovations come as the brand partners with 3-D printing company Formlabs to create personalized, 3-D printed razor handles that can be bought exclusively online.

“From a buying-habit standpoint, we want to be wherever guys want to shop — which continues to be both in-store and online — and we want to make sure wherever we are, we have a range of products available to meet their needs,” he said.

For consumers who do not shave, companies like Amityville, N.Y.-based Sundial Brands are looking to provide facial hair care products that work, but also deliver on the needs of men who care about the ingredients in these products and what they stand for. Sundial created its SheaMoisture Men’s Shave collection featuring shea butter with just that in mind, according to Nicola Chung, the company’s senior director of innovation.

Chung said the goal was to offer solution-based, efficacious products that address men’s most common grooming concerns and, at the same time, feature natural, certified-organic and fair-trade ingredients. “Shave care products featuring natural ingredients don’t need to be at a premium price and only sold in a specialty store,” Chung said. “We created the collection after hearing from male customers who complained of razor burn, bumps and other unpleasant side effects of shaving, especially those with very thick, coarse curly facial hair.”

In addition, the popularity of beards with men of all ages, backgrounds and professions has created the need for grooming products specifically developed for beard care. “Beards now seem to be a form of self-expression, and men talk to us about how they reveal their personality through their beard,” Chung said. “Whether sporting stubble, scruff or a full-grown beard, facial hair has become an important accessory for men.”

Calling beard care one of the hottest trends right now, Chung said Sundial created its SheaMoisture Beard Care collection with invigorating maracuja oil and certified organic shea butter to soften, smooth and cleanse without drying out facial hair and skin. The nutrient-rich ingredients offer anti-inflammatory relief to help soothe and reduce razor burn, ingrown hairs and blemishes, she said. The products also are cruelty-free and made without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol and mineral oil.

Officials at White Plains, N.Y.-based Combe — which markets such brands as Just for Men, Aqua Velva and Brylcreem — said that sales of men’s grooming products are slowly rebounding from last year. Ralph Marburger, vice president of global gray care, men’s grooming, pointed out that men’s body wash, beard care, and electric razors and trimmers are showing strong growth. Marburger cited the brand Harry’s as one of the key reasons sales of men’s grooming products are on the upswing.

Now featured at both Target and, as of May, in Walmart, Harry’s initially began as an online only subscription service with a prime audience that was the younger, next-generation consumer. The vertically-integrated company’s millennial-inspired shaving and skin care product line, which includes razors, shaving gel, post-shave products and blade refills, was designed to offer a differentiated experience in terms of value, quality and affordability, company officials said. Thus far it is proving its value on the shelf and helping retailers attract younger shoppers.

Point out the obvious
“Men continue to look for a fast and convenient shopping experience,” Marburger said. “They are very task focused and don’t shop around much.” Best practice retailers, he said, are winning men’s grooming consumers through an enhanced in-store experience. However, in general, he said traditional retailers are losing ground to e-commerce merchants, especially with new product launches. “That’s where many shoppers are trying the products, and then continue to buy them there,” he said.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to capture some of the sales that had been leaking to e-commerce as previously direct-to-consumer-only brands now are expanding into traditional retail outlets. Marburger believes the increased shelf space allocated to beard care and the proliferation of brands in this segment will continue to result in strong growth and incremental sales for brick-and-mortar retailers. “At the same time, though, there continues to be a lack of true white space product innovation in men’s grooming,” he said.

Research conducted by Combe has shown that male shoppers crave a better and more convenient in-store shopping experience. What’s more, the company’s research shows that men are aware of the transformation many retailers are making to enhance the experience for female shoppers in beauty and clearly feel left out.

“They tell us they are looking for all men’s grooming and personal care products to be merchandised together with the right adjacencies within the aisle with similar improvements to the shopping experience they’re seeing in other areas of the store. Men are open to education where needed, but want a more aesthetically pleasing presentation of products,” Marburger said. At the same time, Combe’s research shows that men do not want to be overwhelmed with too many brand choices within categories, but they want depth of assortment within trusted brands.

P&G’s Bhalla suggested retailers consider moving Gillette products from closed to open sales on the shelf. In cases where retailers employ open sales shelving, Bhalla said P&G has seen up to a 40% decrease in out-of-stocks and sales increases of up to 39%. “We’ve also seen encouraging results when retailers create a ‘male aisle’ that provides a one-stop solution for guys, including blades and razors, skin care, personal care, hair care, and fragrance,” he said, noting that by doing so retailers can see double-digit growth in blades and razor sales, increase trial, and purchase intent.
Yde’s advice for retailers is simple — he said that if they are going to sell men’s grooming products they need to commit to the category. “Provide education and build trust so that the consumer need not go somewhere else to get a quality product,” he said. He also stressed that retailers that price products appropriately will earn shoppers’ business. “Given that consumers can simply tap a few buttons on their phone to see if an item is worth buying, retailers who are pricing out of line with the market are seeing footsteps leave.”

Chung agreed that education is key for both consumers and sales associates, noting that training and sampling for sales associates help them to try the offerings firsthand and share their enthusiasm with consumers. “For consumers, educational signage at shelf, pamphlets with coupons and video tutorials all help to drive interest and trial,” she said.

Creating buzz
In addition to its new vacuum trimmer that will hit stores in February, Wahl will be launching a new clipper technology this year. Smooth Cut Pro is Wahl’s quietest, smoothest clipper to date, Yde said. The company also will be introducing an 18-carat gold trimmer in celebration of its 100th-year anniversary. And while not entirely for men, the company also is debuting a new cordless percussion massager next year, the first consumer massager from Wahl with a retail price of more than $100.

With a third of all current sales occurring online, Yde sees great opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers to grow this part of their business but said to do that they need to tackle the category more aggressively. “Ironically, when people are not stressed by the weight of their economic situation, they don’t seek out stress relief as much,” he said. “Therefore, the industry needs to send a clear message to male — and female — shoppers that it is OK to take care of and pamper yourself.”

Breakthrough products that provide new consumer benefits will continue to drive growth in men’s grooming, Marburger said. “One of the few recent examples of this has been Just For Men’s Control GX Grey Reducing Shampoo, which we launched in 2017,” he said, noting that Control GX is continuing to grow strongly behind increased marketing and media support of the brand, as well as new line extensions. “The future is bright for men’s grooming innovation founded in white space.”


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