Men's grooming gains attention, shelf space at mass retail

Men's grooming routines have moved far beyond just a quick shave. Today, many men have elaborate routines for making sure they look presentable, if not fashionable before they face their day. These consumers are buying more grooming products, and retailers that keep up with the current trends in beard care, hair care, and skin care can succeed in this growing category.

Manufacturers say the men's grooming category is generally growing at mass retail, but some segments have suffered well-publicized declines due to a move to online sales. "Products in the shave aisle — razors, shave creams — pretty much all those categories are down in brick-and-mortar sales," said Ralph Marburger, vice president of global gray care and grooming at Combe in White Plains, N.Y. "Especially in the younger generation, their purchase behavior is just changing. They are not necessarily looking for shave brands in stores anymore."

The categories that are growing include men's hair care, particularly styling products. "Gray care in men's hair color has been growing at 5% or 6% in aisle," Marburger said. "A lot of that is driven by innovation by new products that provide new benefits." Last year, Combe's Just for Men brand launched Control GX Grey Reducing Shampoo.

Beard care is another segment that is growing, and this year Just For Men added a beard care line that includes Beard Balm, Beard Oil and Face and Beard Wash under the name Just For Men The Best Beard Care Ever. The new products respond to a larger trend. "Men overall are much more involved in appearance and grooming," Marburger said. "Taking care of your appearance has been normalized over the years."

The underlying dynamics of the men's grooming category point to a positive future, Marburger said. If retailers make the section inviting. "[Retailers] have to elevate the shopping experience for guys in the stores," he said. "Guys, especially younger guys, want to see new products. They want to see innovation on the shelves."

Think small
As retailers look to provide solutions for skin care, hair care and other men's grooming needs, they can look to smaller manufacturers as a source for innovation, according to Dennis Fisher, founder and CEO of Beachwood, Ohio-based Bee Bald. "Quirkier, unique brands with high-quality products and competitive pricing structures are the ones creating growth for retailers that can nimbly shift gears," he said.

Bee Bald manufactures such products as Clean Daily Cleanser, Heal Post-Shave Healing Balm, Scrub Exfoliating Pre-Shave and other products.

Fisher acknowledged that category sales remain stagnant at retail, while online sales are growing. That could mean opportunities for retailers.

"There's obviously a disconnect between what retailers carry and what consumers want," he said. "At the root of the problem are inertia, fear and complicated relationships with the largest manufacturers that have been tying the hands of category managers for years. Multiple facings of older brands only waste space and inhibit growth. We know that because there is no growth … and so each unnecessary facing simply becomes a lost opportunity."

As retailers work to ensure that consumers have options, companies are launching new products to deliver on what shoppers want. One of the segments of increasing demand is trimmers, which saw 7% year-over-year growth even as shave sales declined, according to Steven Yde, vice president of marketing at Wahl Clipper's North American Consumer division in Sterling, Ill. Men are growing beards, while also keeping the beards tidy and trimming their hair. "The facial hair trend is coinciding with the fade haircut trend," he said. "The beard with the fade on the side and longer hair on top is the hottest combination in the country for millennial men. In fact, some Xers are wearing their hair that way."

Trimmers are playing a key role in keeping consumers well-coiffed, they are making trips to the barbershop only when necessary. "Guys want to maintain the look, but not go to the barber every single week," Yde said. "They might go every four, five or six weeks to the barber, and in between they are trimming to help keep the fade as much as they can."

To maintain their look, trimmer shoppers search for items that are similar to tools they see in the barbershop. To meet this demand, in 2017 Wahl launched Comfort Grip Pro, the brand's first compact, full-powered clipper that Yde said has been a star performer. "Even though it was new for 2017, it cracked the top-10 clippers in the market," he said. Also new from Wahl is the Lithium Beard Trimmer, a product focused on the large beard trend. It comes with guide combs up to 1-inch in length.

Face the facts
Other manufacturers agreed that retailers could benefit from the trend of shoppers looking for barbershop-quality products in stores, and those offerings aren't just limited to trimmers.

"As barbershops continue to offer a wider variety of men's grooming services, consumers will be looking for similar products in stores," said Marwan Zreik, vice president of marketing at Los Angeles-based American International Industries, whose portfolio includes men's grooming brand Clubman. Men are starting to take a more vested in- terest in skin care, particularly facial care.

"Men are adding new products to their personal care regimens," Zreik said. "Particular focus is on facial products, such as beard care and skin care, which includes everything from anti-aging to problem skin solutions. Face masks geared towards men are becoming more popular in the market as part of this trend."

Masks are gaining in popularity as they become easier to apply and work more quickly than the traditional spa treatment mud masks. Snap Products, which is based near Chicago and manufactures such products as facial sheet masks for women, is launching masks and other skin care products for men later this year. The brand, M. Skin Care, is a spin-off of the Miss Spa line. "Men have always been concerned about facial issues, but there hasn't been anything to give them," Lisa Ashcraft, president of Snap Products, said.

Ashcraft said men are buying black bath sponges so that they don't have to borrow the pastel version from the women in their lives. Also, social media features plenty of examples of male celebrities posting photos of themselves wearing facial sheet masks.

While women's facial sheet masks typically take about 20 minutes to work, the new men's masks will work more quickly. "Men don't want to take 20 minutes," Ashcraft said. "We changed the timing and efficacy to six minutes - a pre-shave and post-shave. You put on a mask, put on coffee and read the newspaper, then shave, and then again a six-minute mask, and you're good to go."

Clubman Pinaud also is getting in on the mask craze, introducing a Charcoal Peel-Off Face Mask formulated with activated charcoal and Moroccan Ghassoul, which the company said captures impurities, toxins and debris from deep in the skin and leaves it clean, b