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New shaving technologies are the growth engines behind the men's shaving category, contributing a higher ring and better margins.While women respond to beauty, convenience and simplicity, men are looking for the latest products that will deliver a better and safer shave. Meanwhile, they are increasingly accepting more upscale products in the related areas of skin care and fragrance.Those were some

New shaving technologies are the growth engines behind the men's shaving category, contributing a higher ring and better margins.

While women respond to beauty, convenience and simplicity, men are looking for the latest products that will deliver a better and safer shave. Meanwhile, they are increasingly accepting more upscale products in the related areas of skin care and fragrance.

Those were some of the points made during SN's second roundtable discussion on the grooming and shaving category, this one focusing on men's products. Last week, the roundtable addressed the women's segment.

Participants representing many facets of the industry -- retailer, wholesaler and consultant -- talked about key trends, merchandising and promotion strategies, and what's in the future for men's grooming and shaving products. The participants were:

Mike Juergensmeyer, group vice president, general merchandise and pharmacy, Schnuck Markets, St. Louis

Barb Neudecker, corporate category manager, wholesale health and beauty care, Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Mike Shinall, president and chief executive officer of Euro RSCG Meridian, Westport, Conn.

Rob Wallace, managing partner, Wallace Church, New York, a brand identity consultancy that has done extensive work for Gillette.

SN: What are the key trends in this category?

NEUDECKER: The key trends continue to revolve around triple-blade-item SKUs (stockkeeping units) and new technology applied to them. Consumers are able to recognize the added benefits and performance of these products, and are willing to spend to get them. Gillette has successfully been able to continue to trade consumers up. However, the original Mach3 razor and refills continue to dominate in sales. In the grooming section of the shave sets, the new skin care segment, consisting of Nivea for Men, Neutrogena For Men, etc., has brought incremental business to the section as men are beginning to embrace items such as scrubs and lotions, which have typically been targeted to women. In 2002 alone, men's face care added over $15 million in incremental volume to the men's care category (nationally).

JUERGENSMEYER: It's moved toward the higher technology -- the triple blades, the comfort shave. Two years ago, we saw the shave systems come out, and then we had disposables come out with the triple blades shortly thereafter. Now it seems to be a battle between the triple-blade candidates.

SHINALL: Clearly, the trend over the last several years has been that of pushing for greater technologies. That is, single blades to double blades to triple blades. However, at some point in time, simply having more blades cannot be the answer. The next round of innovation is likely going to include some of the things that we are seeing in the women's category. For example, a razor with built-in shaving solid or cream for touch-ups in the afternoon or evening would represent true innovation. But what we have in the past called men's grooming, and which was defined as men's shaving, has now broadened its definition to include other "look good" products, including hair care products and fragrances, and other items.

WALLACE: In the last several years, there's been incremental innovation. No one has really redefined the market. The last true innovation is the Mach3. The only product launches since then have been ancillary enhancements and not really innovations.

SN: What segments of this category have the most promise for supermarkets?

NEUDECKER: New-technology shave products -- as long as we continue to compete with price on the key items -- and men's skin care. We need to do a better job in the grocery class of trade of letting consumers know we have these products. I expect there will be further line extensions within the skin care section, as well as new players in this area.

WALLACE: From a retailer's perspective, I would expect they would rather sell shaving systems and replacement blades than disposables. The margins on these products are significantly higher. Shaving systems and replacement blades are much more valuable to the supermarket.

SHINALL: Systems vs. disposables is the key dynamic. What is happening is disposable systems have gotten a lot better over the last several years in the sense that they provide a closer, more comfortable and safer shave. This pushes the systems to perform at an even higher level. The question is: Can that gap in comfort, safety and closeness be maintained?

SN: How successful have more upscale products been in this category for supermarkets, and what is their potential for the future?

JUERGENSMEYER: Higher-priced shaving systems have really driven the sales in the category the last few years. That's what the consumer is moving to.

NEUDECKER: The upscale, more expensive items, such as Mach3 and Turbo have been successful in our stores, primarily due to the spending and focus the vendor has put behind the items. Also, some of our more successful retailers have chosen these items to make a price-image statement and compete with the mass merchandisers.

WALLACE: Mach3 was the most successful product launch of its time. That really reinvented the category rather than creating an enhancement. We should all watch for true innovation in the category. It won't be a four-blade razor; it will be something completely different than that.

SHINALL: Supermarkets should recognize that, while many or most shopping trips are made by the female shopper, appealing to the male shopper with a men's "look good" category as a destination category for men could yield some interesting results. Locating men's "look good" products in a department could create new reasons for men to frequent supermarkets.

SN: What is different about the merchandising and promotion of the men's segment as opposed to the women's?

NEUDECKER: Merchandising is typically stronger in the men's segment and runs year-round. Price points on key items such as Mach3 and Edge shave gel are very competitive. Not unlike women's products, we try to gear our promotional plans around those of the manufacturers.

WALLACE: Women have been conditioned by engaging merchandising strategies, and men traditionally don't expect as much.

SHINALL: The dynamics of promotion and merchandising in the men's segment are not fundamentally different from the women's segment. The difference is, in the women's segment, "women's beauty" is defined as cosmetics, fragrances, hair care, grooming and other categories, while men's "look good" is less broad, including hair care, fragrances and shaving. In other words, the concepts are the same -- only the universe is smaller.

SN: How can supermarkets instill more excitement into this category?

NEUDECKER: Since new technology emerges in the shave category every year, I think it is important for food stores to focus on being first to market. With that comes incremental placement of displays to draw attention to the item or category, and encourage more consumers to shop HBC.

SHINALL: There are a lot of products that have a technology foundation, but it is difficult to demonstrate the prowess of the new technology in a supermarket environment. Previously, we have relied on mass-media advertising to accomplish that. However, when I came in-store and saw all these legacy systems on the shelf, it got confusing and my intent to purchase was at least clouded.

Supermarket retailers could take a lesson from other retailers who have found ways to provide potential purchasers with the appropriate touch and feel of a product. For example, at Barnes & Noble, the newest book selections are always displayed on a separate table, and Home Depot does a great job of getting some of the power tools out of the box so the customer can touch and feel them. That is an interesting concept for supermarket retailers to consider.