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Men's grooming: Opportunities grow even as shave sales decline

It seems that it is all up to men this year. 

At least that might be true when it comes to big parts of the health and beauty care landscape, where lackluster sales in parts of the category seem to be hoping that the men’s care segments can pick up much of the pace. 

The bottom line is that men are spending more than ever on their HBC needs, and that is helping retailers survive a slowdown in much of the industry. Still, merchants and suppliers are looking to men to open their wallets even wider to buy not only new products, but items in such categories as skin care, where they have not traditionally purchased many items in the past.

Men’s personal care is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4%, en route to $166 billion by 2022 worldwide, according to Allied Market Research. Nielsen vice president Genevieve Aronson shared data that revealed men’s grooming as the second-largest gainer (behind eyelash treatments) for the 52-week period that ended last December, up 26% in dollars and 31% in units. 

Deborah Weinswig, founder of Coresight Research, predicted continued growth will be driven by change in gender stereotypes, aggressive marketing campaigns, advancements in the technology of products and the rise of disposable income. 

Men’s products, industry experts predicted, will be one of the bright spots of 2020. Yet, it will not be the traditional razors and shavers pacing sales and bringing men to stores — those categories are suffering, losing out to online competitors and a decline in daily shaving. Instead, retailers expect more launches of shave products that do more than facial hair removal, and a continued push into beard care, unisex grooming lines, skin care, devices and hair thickening. 

“As weekly hair removal penetration continues to decline, there is a need to search beyond the traditional ‘clean shaver’ by addressing the more diverse men’s grooming needs."
Nicole Harris, senior brand manager at Edgewell Personal Care

Innovating on Hairitage
As shave, the longtime men’s grooming cornerstone, is losing its cachet, manufacturers are getting creative. Category mainstay Edgewell Personal Care, the maker of Schick, is thinking out of the box. “As weekly hair removal penetration continues to decline, there is a need to search beyond the traditional ‘clean shaver’ by addressing the more diverse men’s grooming needs,” said Nicole Harris, senior brand manager at Edgewell. “And with no sign that the facial hair trend is going away, manufacturers and retailers must think about new ways to cater to the needs of these men.”

Harris said one of Edgewell’s answers is the Xtreme3 Face & Body razor under its Xtreme Men’s Disposable Brand that is exclusive for this year to Target. “Equipped with our unique flexible blade technology, this razor is designed for total body comfort, with a pivoting head that easily adapts to body contours,” Harris said. “It has lubricating strips with aloe vera and vitamin E to help prevent skin irritation and a guard bar formulated with jojoba oil and shea butter for skin comfort.”

Harris also said the brand will continue to push its core brand Xtreme in an effort to streamline and simplify the shopping experience. “We learned that over 60% of shave consumers are undecided at shelf, and when they spend less time searching, it directly correlates to the number of items in their basket.” 

While razor/blade companies seek new avenues, other companies are bringing skin and hair care to the forefront of mass retail departments. 

“Men’s skin care in the U.S. is vastly underdeveloped versus many international markets,” said Michael Law, chief commercial officer at Eagle Labs, which produces RSVP Skin Care for Men, a premium skin care brand for men with natural and organic properties. 

The much-heralded men’s skin care explosion has been a long time coming. Parallel to the natural beauty category, which has been touted as a revolution for years and is only now hitting stride, men’s sales have long been promised to surge. Big brands that include Nivea for Men and Dove + Men have been trailblazers and are now being joined by a plethora of nascent brands looking for a share of the pie. 

Yet men are tricky. They need to be wooed. Experts believe the foundation is in place to make 2020 a breakthrough year, with burnished departments at chains including CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid and Target. The good news is that men like to shop physical spaces, according to a 2018 Prosper Insights & Analytics report, “Men’s Grooming Category is Ready for Disruption,” which showed that Walmart is the destination most preferred by men for shopping for personal care and hygiene, followed by CVS Pharmacy, Target, Walgreens and Amazon.

Yet more is needed to accelerate men’s sales and halt any migration to online. Sam Swartz, co-founder of Duke Cannon Supply, suggested putting effort behind emerging lines. “Traditional retail wisdom suggests it is best to dedicate the most valuable display space to the biggest and established brands,” he said. “But we’re seeing the most progressive retailers, the ones enjoying the most incremental growth, dedicate endcaps to newer, up-and-coming brands.”

CVS Pharmacy is a case in point. The powerhouse drug chain counts Duke Cannon among a long list of nascent brands it is stocking to shake up the status quo. One of the most dramatic displays in its new store format is an eye-catching Duke Cannon endcap, positioned at the entry of the men’s area. The range has beard, shave and face items, as well as body and hair products. 

As part of its efforts to gain a bigger share of men’s spending, CVS Pharmacy also devotes an endcap to The Art of Shaving, which previously only had been sold in prestige doors.

A Niche in Time

Niche brands have made inroads in women’s grooming, and that same trend is emerging in the men’s category. 

Scotch Porter recently announced a retail partnership in roughly 500 Target stores that will stock its beard and skin collection. The brand was founded when Calvin Quallis, who gained experience working in his family’s barbershop, experimented in his kitchen making products. Today, he’s expanded into beard and skin collections, as well as a just announced hair care range. Featuring such ingredients as kale protein and white willow bark, Quallis said the collection focuses on coily, curly, kinky and wavy hair. “Our brand is built on being inclusive and cross cultural,” Quallis said. “We know how to talk to these customers, and that’s the benefit we bring Target.”

Some industry experts felt the beard craze would fade, but fashion and sales trends have said it is here to stay — at least for a while. Quallis is confident that beards are not a fad, and not just for hipsters. Accordingly, beard care represents a big opportunity for mass retailers and can serve as an entry point for sales of skin care. The theory is that they’ll start with beard care and add a full skin care regimen. Target’s expanding men’s department supports that theory. The chain has added more than 600 new products in its new men’s selection, including Harry’s Cremo, Beardbrand, Hue for Every Man and BYRD. 

Coming by it Naturally
Ensuring there are men’s products for all hair types and complexions is paramount at Target. One of the brands checking off that box is Hue for Every Man. “Our all-natural line of men’s premium grooming products work for all hair textures, as well as every skin type and color,” said Jessica Estrada, founder of Hue for Every Man. The natural positioning also is key, she said. 

That’s crucial, according to Coresight Research’s Weinswig, who said men are more likely than women to prefer natural and organic skin care. That’s prompting a flood of “better-for-you” formulations.

Dr. Tusk is a new brand that hits upon growing consumer interest in buying products with a purpose teamed with natural ingredients. The brand supports organic farmers, promotes natural grooming and is dedicated to environmental sustainability. Also, the brand donates 3% of proceeds to charitable partners specializing in the preservation and conservation of elephants. The products hit upon major trends in grooming — natural formulas harnessing the power of hemp, caffeine and dragon’s blood in skin care, while hair and styling use water-based hemp protein extract and caffeine pomades.

Former McKesson executive turned brand founder Stan Ades and his wife, C.C. Sofronas, launched Pacific Shaving to break down the barriers giving shaving a “bad name.” The lineup is naturally derived with vegan ingredients. Hero products include Natural Shave Oil, Caffeinated Shaving Cream, and Aftershave and Bamboo Pre-Shave Scrub. The range is sold at more than 10,000 stores, including select Target and CVS Pharmacy locations. 

With all of the products coming out of the woodwork, Ades recommended balance. “Brands made up of ‘me-too’ products are popping up on the shelf, which is only giving retail shelves the appearance of variety,” he said. “I think this category boom — and virtuous cycle — can continue if retail continues to offer consumers the right balance of product and brand variety. Without it, the shaving aisle stops being a destination for discovery, and the cyclical retail exercise of SKU rationing is imminent.” 

“That goes for packaging, key ingredients and, most importantly, benefits. That’s not to say the products need to be simple,” Ades said. “I think men will purchase expanded-regimen products, especially if they are effective and differentiated. What’s important is that the whole package needs to be easy to understand and answer the question, what’s in it for me?”

RSVP, according to Eagle Labs’ Law, was created as a natural, organic skin care alternative to large national men’s care brands that may contain a lot of unnecessary chemical ingredients. “Both men and women are becoming more educated on chemical ingredients and their impact on both the environment and their bodies” Law said. “It’s actually very scary to learn about the impact that chemicals can have as they enter your bloodstream through your skin care products. Women are ahead of men in their education in this area, but they are teaching their men and reading labels much more carefully.”

Bright Spots
Devices continue to constitute a solid opportunity in the space. Beard grooming has opened the door for greater sales of tools. Men can’t always visit a barber, so they are doing more grooming at home. To that end, retailers are adding more shelf space for such items as beard and body trimmers from brands such as Wahl and Andis. 

“Analysts are predicting category growth of over 40% in the next several years,” said Bruce Kramer, senior vice president of North America consumer division at Wahl Clipper. “The industry has recognized this and is providing new tools and products to help men achieve the look they want.” Wahl has responded with new brushes and combs for hair, beards and body. 

Grooming and removing hair are top of mind, but so is thickening hair. From the makers of women’s Keronique is Thick Head, which without an aggressive marketing push, already is No. 4 in the category, according to Charlene Deegan-Calello, vice president of new product development and research and development at Atlantic Coast Brands. With a robust marketing plan expected for 2020, she predicted “big things for the brand.” 

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