Skip to main content

Trends in men’s facial hair impact sales


The shave category is trying to get its groove back. With the exception of razors, where sales are up a healthy 10.6% for the 52-week period ended Sept. 4, 2016, as tracked by IRI across multi-outlets, all of the other categories in shave are down.

(To view the full Shave Report, click here.)

In particular, disposable sales are off 6.8% and cartridges declined 7%. Among cartridge vendors, only private label and Van der Hagen were in the black as far as growth rate. The latter is getting a boost from renewed interest in more traditional double-edge, safety razors. These items make shaving a ritual instead of a chore. Private labels showed the only positive growth among the Top 5 disposable blade vendors.

There are several reasons for dull sales. Of course, most retailers are quick to mention the encroachment from the online shave clubs. According to Euromonitor, online sales of men’s shaving products hit $342 million last year, mostly racked up by razors and blades.

But experts also tick off such reasons as the ongoing trend of men’s facial hair, a move to higher-end razors instead of toss-away options at one end of the spectrum, but also the trading down to less expensive products that produce lower cash register rings at the other end. That trend is supported by the double-digit inclines in many categories of private labels.

A final barrier that a few retailers pointed out is the climbing prices of systems requiring them to put them under lock and key at service centers to prevent theft.

The overall category isn’t getting a boost from shaving lotions or shaving creams either — those sales dropped 2.5% and 1.4%, respectively.

To be sure, there is undoubtedly potential in shave as witnessed by the eye-opening $1 billion acquisition of Dollar Shave Club by Unilever. “They’ve wanted to be in the shave business for years,” said one seasoned industry veteran. “I won’t be surprised to see them ink an exclusive with a major retailer.” Target also put its confidence in the category with its exclusive partnership with Harry’s, starring a 4-ft. razor on an end-cap display.

For those not looking for an exclusive partnership with an online resource, there are other strategies to sharpen sales.

Acknowledging the trend of facial hair and stubble has put pressure on the core-shaving segment. Companies are doing their best to adapt products and the way they court customers in fresh ways. According to Howard Brauner, VP new product development at Universal Beauty Products, 30% of men have facial hair ranging from stubble to lumberjack beards. Zeroing in on those between the ages of 18 to 34 years, the percentage soared to more than 50%.

The recent New York Men’s Fashion Week illustrated the trend with men having everything from five o’clock shadows to full out beards on the runways.

To refocus the category for a new landscape, marketers are launching new campaigns and products that address the myriad shaving styles that men are addressing, and debuting niche products that augment shaving, such as beard washes.

Edgewell has a multi-pronged approach to help brick and mortar recharge sales. First on tap is the upgrade of the Hydro cartridge. “It’s the only product on the market with a hydrating gel reservoir that provides skin hydration for up to an hour after shaving. This technology provides 40% less friction than a lubrication strip,” said Michael Law, senior director, customer strategy and planning at Edgewell Personal Care. He said Schick Hydro is the only technology delivering growth in the United States, according to Nielsen data.

He also is helping retailers understand how to better compete with online clubs. Ironically, he said, online isn’t always the best bet for the dollar and most transactions are still accomplished in retail stores. Retailers should offer an omnichannel approach so that consumers have the convenience of buying when and where they want. One idea is to offer automatic repleneshment based on usage, but with availability to pick up the items in stores instead of by mail.

Philips Consumer Lifestyle, according to Ray Larney, VP U.S. retail sales, is beefing up its communication with consumers through traditional ads fortified with social media. As far as products, the company unfurled OneBlade, a product that helps trim a beard or remove all facial hair. It eliminates the need for multiple steps and multiple tools.

Van der Hagen, which is now owned by Universal Beauty Products since late last year, is offering mass marketers the ammunition to compete with specialty doors, such as The Art of Shave. In addition to its throwback safety double-edge razor and shave tools, the company’s lineup includes elegant shave brushes, shave soaps and shave bowls. The line is featured at Walgreens, Walmart, Target and Rite Aid, among others. Interestingly, more women are eyeing double-edge razors for not only shaving but facial planing — shaving faces to remove dead skin and generate cell growth.

Retailers also are seeking out unique lines to make up for the falloff in some categories. A case in point is Bee Bald. “Quirky companies like ours are driving growth in the category,” said Dennis Fisher, founder and CEO of the company, which sells items to maintain bald heads.

With the increase of U.S. men growing — and keeping — longer beards, Universal Beauty Products launched the Beard Guyz brand of men’s products last year with great success, said Brauner. The lineup of Daily Wash 35, Deep Conditioner 25, Balm for Course Hair, Balm for Fine Hair to Medium Hair and Bear Oil 25 builds incremental volume rather than cannibalizes from other shave items, he added.

“These aren’t me too products. We are line extending this year because our retail partners tell us we are filling white space,” Brauner said. Two new products will debut this year, including a serum to be applied at night to help spur hair growth, which Brauner said is a common request. Another is a scent to help eradicate odors in facial hair. The line debuted in Walgreens, and distribution has widened to doors that include CVS, Meijer, Wegmans and Publix. To help expose consumers to the line, Beard Guyz does extensive sampling, such as the 50,000 products handed out at Daytona Beach for Bike Week.

And a spark of good news has come from the tools needed to maintain facial hair, such as those from IdeaVillage, Conair and Wahl. To maximize sales of such items, Ron Boger, president and COO of IdeaVillage that makes MicroTouch, a personal trimmer, suggested added sales come from added exposure. In addition to boosting its promotional activities, the company sees bigger movement with its MicroTouch brand in off-shelf displays and secondary locations in As Seen On TV departments.

Creating a place where a man feels comfortable shopping also is key. Rite Aid and Walgreens are among those culling space out of the store for specific men’s grooming areas. While women buy a great deal of the shaving and grooming products, more and more men are selecting their own, especially as they find a home in the store curated for them.

Nivea Men’s marketing director Jennifer Delaney said merchandising the category should be thoughtful, especially as they compete against online. “The category should be merchandised so as to make the in-store experience as clear and easy as possible for men to navigate. Retailers should be merchandising the shave category by brand and by pillar — for example, products made for sensitive skin, hydration, etc., and by product group, shave, aftershave,

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds