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Sizing up the men’s grooming boom

Are men going to save the day? With sales of women’s beauty products relatively stagnant over the last few years, many industry officials are turning to the men’s grooming industry as a savior of sorts. 

In fact, many hope that increasing buzz on social media and elsewhere, a flurry of product introductions and more space on retail shelves, will continue to drive sales of men’s products and help retailers weather the storm in the women’s sections. 

So far, they are getting what they want. Industry statistics show that men’s grooming sales are growing by about 5% annually and the category is producing strong margins, thanks in large part to higher price points and the simple fact that most men do not pay close attention to prices when they shop for themselves. 

“We are spending more and more in taking care of ourselves,” said Christian Sosa, international business developer at Pacinos Signature Line, an emerging men’s brand. “Men are a pack, and we imitate and we follow our peers.” 

Sosa uses himself as an example. He spends about $150 per month and $1,800 a year on his needs. “We may not spend as much as women, but we’ll get there.” The line was created by barber/stylist Eric ‘Pacinos’ Roa — his clients include Sean “Diddy” Combs and Kevin Hart — who saw a need for enhanced products in the men’s hair grooming industry. Target and CVS Pharmacy currently stock the brand.  

The global male grooming products market is estimated at $57.7 billion. By 2023, it could balloon to $78.6 billion. That sum is expected to advance at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4%, according to Inkwood Research. 

Propelling that growth are men who buy more than just shaving needs these days as they borrow a page from consumption-heavy women. Men, especially younger consumers, are using antiaging skin care and specialty hair formulas. There is less stigma today in taking pride in a grooming regimen. There are even more male-only salons and barbers, many of which are adding products curated with men’s needs. Facial hair is more accepted than ever, even in the workplace, encouraging more men to grow beards, which also require their own set of maintenance products. 

Like women, men have always cared about how they look, but the biggest shift is now the industry has recognized this and is providing new tools and products to help men achieve the look they want.
Bruce Kramer, senior vice president, North American consumer division, Wahl Clipper
American Provenance products

Social media fuels trends
Along with the interest in men’s grooming products comes the expected confusion on retail shelves, especially as so many vendors introduce items to the category. 

“This year, we’ve heard over and over from our retail partners that the challenge is having variety on the shelf, but still manage to simplify the customer experience,” said Stan Ades, founder and president of Pacific Shaving, a brand gaining steam in the mass market at powerhouses like Target and CVS Pharmacy. 

While he acknowledged men are more interested in taking care of themselves, he suggested framing it as “grooming regimens, rather than “beauty regimens. That’s the strategy behind two new items, Pacific Shaving’s Bamboo Scrub and Konjac Sponge — they are positioned as pre-shave products rather than “skin care” per se.  

A spokesman for Bulldog Skincare for Men echoed those feelings, noting that it is important for retailers to dedicate real estate and resources to attract men. “We’ve seen a trend in retailers providing more prominent space to house men’s brands. In some cases, retailers are dedicating entire aisles to grooming products,” the brand representative said. 

So, the onus is going to be on the retailer to get a bit innovative with this emerging category. Some already are taking on the challenge. 

Rite Aid, for example, has created special vignettes built out in its men’s area with end caps and specially signed areas for men’s grooming. Target is another trailblazer with new men’s departments and the expansion of its Goodfellow & Co. fashion line into men’s grooming. 

“Over the past few years, we’ve continued to see Target’s share in the men’s grooming market grow and expect our business to double by 2020. To keep up with demand, we’ve been focused on investing in new products, trends and services that elevate the department — which is why we’re in the process of introducing a new in-store experience to men’s grooming,” said Mark Tritton, executive chief merchandising officer at Target, during a press event earlier this year. More than 600 products are featured in the new men’s selection from companies like Harry’s Cremo, Beardbrand and Byrd. 

Walmart is shifting into overdrive, too, adding a boatload of brands including the Johnny’s Chop Shop line, which got its start in a hip barbershop in the men’s department at a London outpost of Topshop. Johnny’s Chop Shop launched recently in the United States across 3,500 Walmart stores. 

The brand is offering seven of its bestsellers, including the Sports & Social Fibre and Wild Cat Hair Clay. “We know that 95% of adult men are using a hair care product, including shampoo, conditioner or hairstyling products. The online retail environment is becoming increasingly important for younger men, allowing them to access more information at their leisure and becoming a source of inspiration,” said brand co-founder Steven Ross. 

“Our Johnny’s Chop Shop social channels, including YouTube and Instagram, provide inspiration and education, helping men to understand which products they can use to create their style,” Ross said. “More retailers are dedicating store space to male grooming, which could in turn spark more interest and impulse buying from male shoppers.” 

CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Bartell Drugs, Hy-Vee and Kroger also are mentioned as mass merchants developing their “manly” side. With the buzz created, more are sure to follow. Johnny’s Chop Shop is rolling out to 1,000 Walgreens and the top 100 CVS Pharmacy doors, Ross said. 

It isn’t just retailers and start-up brands that are finding niches to fill in men’s needs. 

“Analysts are predicting category growth of over 40% in the next several years,” said Bruce Kramer, senior vice president of the North American consumer division at Wahl Clipper. “Over the last several years, there has been increasing dialogue in men’s grooming in the beauty industry. Like women, men have always cared about how they look, but the biggest shift is now the industry has recognized this and is providing new tools and products to help men achieve the look they want.” Fittingly, his company recently expanded its grooming tools range with wet goods, brushes and combs for hair, beards and body. 

Shaving still is the cornerstone of men’s grooming, but sales have been sliced by online options and the decrease in daily shaving. The leading brands are eyeing avenues to keep sales afloat. Procter & Gamble, for example, rolled out Gillette Skin Guard, a product to help men shave with less irritation — a common complaint that halts men from shaving frequently. Also, P&G purchased Walker & Co. last year to reach more multicultural consumers. Walker & Co. includes Bevel, a men’s shaving brand. 

Reacting to a growing number of men who shave their heads, Edgewell Personal Care’s Schick now has Xtreme razors designed for bald men, along with a special club for the hairless, called BIP — Bald Important People. BIPs have access to the razor, along with special perks and experiences. Edgewell also has acquired Harry’s, the shaving brand that made a splash online and subsequently expanded to Target stores.

Developing the market

The U.S. men’s skin care category is vastly underdeveloped in comparison with many international markets, said Michael Law, chief commercial officer at Eagle Labs, which markets RSVP Skin Care for Men. 

One of the biggest opportunities he sees is converting men from “browsers to buyers.” RSVP has a proven track record built through its direct-to-consumer model and is ready to expand to physical stores. “RSVP is excited to bring this brand to select retail partners that are committed to creating a men’s care destination in store,” Law said. “Combining a strong e-commerce brand with the right strategic retail partners will unlock a lot of category growth potential,” he said, noting the brand can build market baskets, promote trade up and boost store loyalty. 

RSVP’s pipeline is bursting with innovation, including expansion into CBD. “We’re very excited to be launching new RSVP men’s skin care items with CBD. Consumers have reported a wide range of positive benefits with CBD in skin care products, and it will help attract new users to the brand and the category,” Law said.

Mirroring trends in female personal care, natural ingredients are sought out by men and have always been part of the DNA at RSVP. “Men have also clearly embraced reading labels and are supporting brands that are aligned with their values,” he said. “We use a wide range of natural and organic products in our formulations, and [they] are manufactured in one of the greenest, most environmentally friendly facilities in the U.S.” 

The RSVP lineup includes more than 30 certified organic ingredients, including avocado, jojoba oil, aloe vera, pineapple extract, pumpkin seed extract and dragon’s blood. Bestsellers include Dragon’s Blood Foaming Cleanser, Exfoliating Bamboo Scrub and Anti Aging Face Serum. 

—Seth Mendelson


Offsetting a slowdown in shaving sales
The biggest opportunities in men’s grooming lie beyond razors and blades. Space is being cleared on shelves for facial masks, beard oils, grooming tools and even makeup. 

New options in shave are shaking things up, especially shave oils. USA King’s Crossing was a pioneer in shaving oils — the company discovered the benefits of oils, which are said to reduce dry skin, nicks and ingrown hairs, more than 25 years ago. The company’s Shave Secret debuted in 1997 and now is stocked in such major chains as Walmart, H-E-B, Wegmans and Giant Eagle. It’s making a mark in the crowded shave category dominated by power players and populated by various emerging brands.

Company president Chuck Howard said Amazon ranks Shave Secret as its best-selling shaving product on the site. More than 8 million units (wholesale) have been sold. Women apparently are swiping the oil from their significant others, he said, adding that 50% of sales are to women.

Duke Cannon Supply is challenging the status quo in the men’s aftershave space. Co-founded by Sam Swartz, the brand is emphasizing positive masculine virtue with products made for hard-working men, harkening back to a time when chivalry and patriotism weren’t old-fashioned. Swartz called it an underserved market he dubs as the mainstream upgraders. The  fine-tuned lineup is made for today’s styling needs. 

The brand’s Cooling After-Shave Balm is formulated with aloe and shea butter, and is alcohol-free. It has been a top seller at retail partners, which include Wegmans, Target and CVS Pharmacy, among others, for two years, according to the company. “Eighteen to 34-year-old men are engaged in hair styling, often purchasing multiple types of styling product to fit different use occasions. Our News Anchor Fiber Pomade launched earlier this year, alongside several other News Anchor hair styling SKUs, and has not only exceeded expectations, but also has been purchased with other styling products in one out of three occasions,” Swartz said. 

Sensing the opportunity to broaden beyond traditional shave products, Harry’s now offers face and shower products, as well as hair care products. The Harry’s hair line includes a Taming Cream, Texturizing Putty, Sculpting Gel and a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. Before formulating those products, Harry’s said it listened to feedback from more than 3,000 men to learn about their pain points with existing brands.

The fact that men are asking more questions inspired Dove Men+Care to add straightforward solutions to its website. Some of the topics include how to clean skin to avoid dryness and advice on sensitive skin. Unilever is taking education to the stores with AXE and an in-store interactive tool that helps men figure out what to buy for a specific look, such as “natural.” Graphics also show men how to use products. The tools are useful for men who often don’t want to seek help from beauty advisors, who are mostly women in mass stores. 

The creation of beard care as a vibrant category has benefitted many niche brands, including Universal Beauty Products and its Beard Guyz brand. The range includes everything from beard wash to a beard butter. Universal has all bases covered; the company also markets Van Der Hagen, which offers a full range of shaving needs.

Natural Counts for Men, Too
Natural is moving to the front burner in men’s grooming care. The Bulldog spokesperson said men want products that not only deliver results, but they like to align with brands that have a greater purpose. The vegan-friendly Bulldog products do not contain artificial colors, synthetic fragrances or ingredients from animal sources. The brand, sold at such retailers as CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Whole Foods and Kroger, will begin the process of transitioning its tube packaging to sugarcane-based plastic, a renewable resource with minimum impact on food suppliers or biodiversity, this year.

“Men are more open to the idea that their skin is their largest organ — and what they put on it is just as important as what they put in it.” said Pacific Shaving’s Ades. “And, as a result, we’ve seen men and the women who buy for them being more thoughtful in their purchase considerations. For us, that has been great, as one of the core tenets of our products has always been our use of safe, natural and plant-derived ingredients.”

The company is committed to developing and manufacturing innovative and effective products that are safe and natural. “Everything has a reason in our products. We are not trying to create a product that just smells like ‘morning rain’ or ‘Irish fields.’ We are trying to innovate with practical purposes in mind,” Ades said. “For example, using all-natural ingredients; using caffeine to help diminish the appearance of redness and razor burn; using sustainable ingredients like bamboo stem to exfoliate and clean; and using food-grade, water-soluble film to create the world’s first zero-waste, single-use shaving cream pod.” The latter is relaunching in 2020. 

Natural ingredients are a hallmark of Thayers Natural, which is known for its use of witch hazel. The brand recently introduced its Thayers Gentlemen Collection, highlighted by a soothing shaving cream, an aftershave lotion that fights razor burn, and an aftershave that leaves skin smooth and hydrated, according to Andrea Gity, marketing manager at the company. “We think our products will be successful due to the natural ingredients and the traditional reliance on witch hazel as an astringed and aftershave product in shaving,” she said of the formulas, which also include aloe vera. 

Kyle LaFond, founder of American Provenance, was a middle school science teacher who turned a class project into a company. “Kids in their early teens stink. This unfortunately leads to the overuse of popular name-brand body sprays to conceal personal odor,” he said. “One particular day, I had a ‘light-bulb’ moment. I asked one of my students if I could take a quick look at the body spray in his locker. As I read through the back panel, I was horrified. These sprays contained countless chemicals, preservatives, additives, synthetic fragrances and other questionable ingredients.” 

What started out as a class research project became the launch of a line with less caustic ingredients. “We now manufacture an average of 20,000 units per month and are on the verge of exponential growth,” LaFond said. “You won’t find any ingredients that you can’t easily recognize or pronounce in any of our products. We manufacture high quality, natural personal care and wellness products for anyone seeking alternatives to traditional chemical-laden cosmetics.”  

Natural is equally important in beard care, which is pushing castor oil up the ladder. That’s been a boon for Okay Pure Naturals. “Men are especially interested in natural products,” said Osman Mithavayani, vice president and co-founder of Okay Pure Naturals, which has a full range of men’s natural products. In particular, he said the company’s Black Jamaican Castor Oil Moisture & Growth shampoo has been a standout. 

One of the categories emerging is men’s hair thickening and hair growth. When Atlantic Coast Brands kept getting requests to offer a male version of Keranique, the company knew it had to launch a line formulated for special requirements for males. “Men are engaged, and they are asking more questions,” said Charlene Deegan-Calello, vice president of new product development and research and development at the company. The result was Thick Head, which, even though only in its infancy, is showing up on top-selling sales data. Twenty-five percent of men experience hair loss by the age of 21, 66% by the age of 35 and 84% have serious hair loss by the age of 65, she said. The formula for men is very different than the one for women, Calello said. The marketing approach also is customized.

Good Guy Wellness is another rising star in the hair loss segment, and company officials said the brand is unique in that it’s a modern omnichannel men’s hair care and hair loss-focused brand targeting millennials. The products available in the Good Guy Wellness line are preventive treatments geared toward 18 to 34-year-olds. The brand’s best-selling men’s hair growth gummies are especially popular — singled out for their flavor and nutrient-packed formulas. The range, sold online and at Walmart, also includes shampoos, conditioners and a hair regrowth treatment. 

“Millennial men are showing increased rates of hair loss. And whether that’s due to stress, genetics or other factors, they don’t have to rely on the same preventative measures that their dads or grandads used,” said Christian Patiño Webb, executive vice president of marketing at Good Guy Wellness.

Another choice for those who want to make their hair thicker is Toppik, which makes the Toppik Hair Building Fibers product that features a keratin protein blend that works with existing hair to create the appearance of full hair. Walgreens, Ulta Beauty and Walmart are among the chains adding Toppik as a choice for those looking to boost their locks.

At the other end of the spectrum, many men are embracing the beauty of baldness. According to Dennis Fisher, founder and CEO of Bee Bald, his brand is gaining steam at both brick-and-mortar and online stores. Bee Bald offers a range for men — with hair or without — that includes cleansers, scrubs, shave creams, healing balms and daily moisturizers, with SPF 30 and without.

“We’re now selling in more brick-and-mortar stores than any competing manufacturer marketing shave and skin care products exclusively to bald men. Granted, there aren’t too many, but we’re at the top,” Fisher said. “We’re obsessed about getting our message and products out to the more than 100,000,000 men in the U.S. who need us now more than ever.”

Indie brands are making inroads across all of beauty and personal care, and the same trend is emerging for men. Not all of the fledgling brands, however, are up-and-comers. Truefitt & Hill, established as a barbershop in 1805 in London, was named by the “Guinness Book of World Records” in 2000 as the oldest barbershop in the world. The brand has helped bring back safety razors with British quality, and more recently created grooming products in beard care and hair care now sold at Walmart.

Retailers said they can attract men with unique lines — many born in salons or barbershops. Every Man Jack was a trailblazer in bringing newness to the men’s space. Now sold in Target, Whole Foods, CVS Pharmacy, Walmart, Sprouts, and Bed, Bath and Beyond, the brand brought a coolness to mass market once only associated with luxury natural men’s lines. Earlier this year, Every Man Jack introduced the benefits of charcoal to the deodorant category with its Activated Charcoal Deodorant.  ​​​​​​​

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