Shaving technology: are prices too high?

Articles
August 17, 2010

Shaving technology: are prices too high?

The men's wet shaving technology race has defined the category for about two decades.

The men's wet shaving technology race has defined the category for about two decades. Innovations progressed from single-blade razors to today's five-blade systems, escalating prices and feelings of male pride in using the latest along the way. Men bought into the marketing that more blades meant better shaves. In men's minds, a smooth shave could go a long way, and campaigns regularly drew on those hopes as well.

Then came The Great Recession. Men wondered, 'Will an additional blade make my life any different,' and 'Do I really have to spend close to 20 bucks for my next multi-pack of shaving cartridges.' The marketers of Gillette and Schick brands compete as heavily as ever, but the question in front of the category has shifted to, "Is the technology race as relevant to men, and will it continue to grow shelf performance.'

The answer appears to be a qualified yes, based on U.S. sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise retailers (excluding Walmart, wholesale clubs and gasoline/convenience stores) during the 52 weeks ended June 13, 2010, from SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm. The more recent shaving technologies do rank among sales leaders in the razors and blades segments.

Yet a counter-trend is also underway, notes a recent story in The Wall Street Journal that details the great lengths some men go to stockpile their old favorite brands and not run out, and to avoid having to buy costly upgrades. Some men hide their stashes at home, or oil their blades to extend their useful lives. Why not when the latest Fusion ProGlide power razor launch is supported by $4 savings coupons as a purchase incentive, but its blades sell for 15% more than the regular Fusion.

Dollar sales of blades overall (cartridges and disposables) rose a bare 0.76% to $1.29 billion on a 1.98% unit sales decline during the 52 weeks ended June 13, 2010 in the channels cited, the SymphonyIRI data showed. System cartridges are the larger segment, but their dollar sales declined 0.09% to $782.5 million on a 6.28% unit drop during the period, perhaps due to male balking. Some men went to the far less pricey disposables segment, which rose 2.09% to $505.6 million on a 0.6% unit sales increase during the same period.

Among cartridges, the top sales leaders were: Gillette Fusion (20.26% market share), up 13.42% in dollar sales to $158.5 million; Gillette Mach3 (16.60% market share), down 6.11% to $129.9 million; Gillette Fusion Power (11.08% market share), up 4.07% to $86.7 million; Gillette Mach3 Turbo (8.25% market share), down 1.23% to $64.5 million; and Schick Intuition Plus (4.62% market share), up 2.27% to $36.2 million, noted SymphonyIRI data.

The top disposables segment was private label (16.11% market share), up 11.12% to $81.5 million.

The razors segment was up 6.76% overall to $219.5 million on a 7.52% unit rise, the data showed. Sales leaders were: Gillette Fusion (11.13% market share), up 13.72% to $24.4 million; Gillette Venus Embrace (10.16% market share), down 1.06% to $22.3 million; Schick Intuition Plus (6.54% market share), down 5.75% to $14.3 million; and Gillette Mach3 Turbo (5.75% market share), up 12.11% to $12.6 million.

 

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