Although new grooming products have been arriving on supermarket shelves faster than a 5 o'clock shadow, consumers remain receptive to the next big thing.
Technological innovations to razors and related products seem so numerous these days they can be downright confusing. However, industry observers tell SN that the ongoing search for the perfect shave has kept shoppers attentive and spending.
“The grooming category has become progressively more competitive, given all the new product introductions, yet those innovations have made a significant difference in category growth,” said Mike DeJulio, director of HBC, Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y.
Consumers hate to shave, so they are “constantly paying attention to new formats and technology,” said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys, New York. Because shaver users hold on to the notion that “it would be nice to find the easiest way to shave,” retailers have the opportunity to get their attention with new products, he said.
All the activity going on at the mass-market level creates strong pressure for consumers to buy into new shaving and skin care lines, said James Whittall, founder and president of MenEssentials.com, Ottawa, a high-end male grooming retail website.
“The reason why companies like mine exist is because of what's going on in the mass market right now,” he said.
“People realize that for just a little bit of extra money, the product they get has a beneficial impact on their sense of self or their well-being,” Whittall said. MenEssentials sits at the top of that curve, selling double-edged safety razor handles for $60, but any of the newer, higher-priced brands are also there for people who find themselves with some disposable income and want to increase their quality of life, he said.
“That is the essence of the new luxury market: There will always be a strong group of people who trade up.”
To ensure that customers will buy better goods, be first to market and encourage trial, retailers and consultants told SN.
“First to market is key, along with displays to promote the new products in the store,” DeJulio said.
The private-label grooming category has seen recent dollar growth due to consumers trading up, said Tony Harrington, director, program management, HBC, Topco Associates, Skokie, Ill.
To motivate customers to try its “high-performance” private-label shaving systems for men and women — Matrix and Mystique, respectively — Topco uses a “Try Me Free” rebate, offering back to consumers what they paid for the handle. “We provide point-of-purchase materials, including prebuilt displays, and graphics to be incorporated into retail advertising and in-store marketing,” Harrington said.
TRIAL BY LATHER
With so many stockkeeping units in the category, retailers can keep customers from feeling overwhelmed by creating promotions that encourage consumers to do their own test, said Diane Garber, president, In-Sight Communications, Buffalo Grove, Ill. Garber suggested attracting female customers with wording like “one leg vs. another” to promote the trial comparison of two or more types of razors.
“Some of the big technological breakthroughs in the category came last year, and now customers are beginning to trade off and test all of the varieties,” Garber said. She cited last year's introduction of Gillette's Fusion razor, with five blades — either electric or non-powered — and Schick's launch of battery-powered versions of its four-blade Quattro razor for men and women.
This year, Schick, owned by Energizer Holdings, St. Louis, will spend $30 million to support the launch of the Quattro disposable razors for men and women, a West Coast nonfood executive said. Stores should have the product available as soon as possible, the source said, to take advantage of a media and promotional campaign that will begin in April, including national print ads, freestanding inserts, sampling and displays.
“Off-shelf displays and bonus packs are great opportunities to capture additional sales,” he added.
Meanwhile, Gillette, which will be integrated into the Beauty and Health business of Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, later this year, launched a new campaign this month called the Gillette Champions program, unveiling brand ambassadors Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henery from the golf, tennis and soccer worlds, respectively.
For a category that is becoming more and more homogenous, “celebrity sponsorships are about borrowing equity,” Passikoff said. “If Tiger Woods uses it, maybe people will think it's better.”
ON THE COATTAILS
However, promotional tie-ins with the manufacturer's freestanding inserts are key for every retailer, DeJulio said.
“We have moved a long way from the old slogan ‘look sharp, be sharp,’” said the West Coast executive, in reference to the Champions program. “But the basics of [in-store] promotions, such as off-shelf displays, will be the real drivers.”
National-brand introductions also pave the way for similar private-label products, said Stan Postma, store-brand product manager for Western Family Foods, Tigard, Ore.
“Where the national brand has created a niche for us, we follow them in, and in most cases the private-label products are very successful because of high national-brand prices,” he said.
Although the category continues to evolve based on new technology, high price points do cause limitations in space, security and the willingness of some customers to pay extra, said the West Coast executive. “In more ethnic and lower-income areas, disposables are very much alive and very strong, due to lower price points and willingness of retailers to stock such items without securing them in locking cabinets.”
Among chain retailers, many different systems for security are in use, and all try to maximize visibility and accessibility, “but they probably still deter some purchases,” the West Coast executive said.
“The end result of all of this innovation and marketing is that it drives up the prices of items, and that has created a bit of consumer backlash against what is going on at mass market,” Whittall said.
Metal double-edged safety razors are the fastest-moving product at Whittall's online company, he said. “The handle lasts you the rest of your life, and then you spend $5 on a 10-pack of blades that will last you three weeks per blade. Some men are looking for ways to save in the long term.”
The women's category is focusing on the opportunity for a woman to pamper herself in an area that has always been seen for its functionality, the West Coast executive said.
“Women's razors continue to do very well, and related tie-in products continue to grow,” DeJulio said. “New items like Venus Breeze, Bic Soleil and Quattro Disposable for Women are keeping the category fresh and dynamic.”
While women react to the market in largely the same way as men, “there is not as high a barrier to enjoyment for women.” Passikoff said. “Women are more likely to be content with what they have than on a constant hunt for the perfect shave.”
Beyond the Blades
Comfort and ease are prime considerations when shopping for grooming products, so retailers should place related skin care products close to their shaving counterparts, sources told SN.
When comfort is key, “shave creams are relevant,” one West Coast nonfood executive told SN. “Manufacturers continue to introduce new items with added skin benefits and will spend heavily to create awareness. For instance, some of the new women's shaving products have added a moisturizing lather.”
At MenEssentials.com, Ottawa, a high-end male grooming retail website, skin care and bath and body segments continue to make progress in sales, said James Whittall, founder and president.
“Other product segments, like hair care and deodorant, are very mature, but skin care and bath and body are growing at a fast pace. Mass marketers are repositioning their grooming lines as skin care and bath and body products because they are trying to tap into that new trend,” Whittall said.
“The grooming category is growing, and that success may be feeding the success of some other skin care items,” said Stan Postma, store brand product manager for Western Family Foods, Tigard, Ore.
The Sally Hansen line from Del Laboratories, Uniondale, N.Y., has introduced a number of new hair removal and related products this year, “formulating different systems to different women's need,” a company spokeswoman told SN.
“The consumer expects new product innovations. Her level of sophistication will, of course, increase as we make these new innovations available.”
The same is happening in the men's market as well, said Tony Harrington, director, program management, HBC, Topco Associates, Skokie, Ill. “Several high-end brands have introduced men to more-expensive skin care options. After crossing that price/perception barrier, male consumers become more aware, which benefits the entire category.”