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In its latest comprehensive report on shaving and hair removal in the United States issued in October 2015, global market research firm Mintel noted stagnant sales and predicted “minimal gains through 2020.” But more recent data from Chicago-based IRI paint a rosier picture, at least for private brand shave care products.
Take razors, a more than $530 million subcategory. During the 52 weeks ending Jan. 22, private label razors increased by 45.3 percent in sales compared to a 16.3 percent gain for the entire category. Given that store brands constitute just 7.7 percent dollar share in this segment, its potential for expansion is evident.
In the same reporting period, three other subcategories — blades (cartridges), blades (disposables) and shaving cream — experienced declines overall but significant growth for private brands. For example, store brand blade cartridges, which account for 3.5 percent dollar share, increased nearly 65 percent in retail sales. And in the disposable blade segment, of which private brands already command a 17.5 percent share, store brands scored a more than 23 percent gain in sales.
Why the disparity in growth between private brands and national brands? Shaving tends to be chore, an onerous activity rather than pleasurable one. So this is a category in which convenience and value reign supreme, even though safety and performance are also priorities. In each segment of the category, IRI reports a considerably lower unit price for private brands.
“Creating a challenge for branded products, private label products offer value-driven shoppers an affordable option with features that resemble some of the newest or most notable claims in the category,” Mintel emphasized in its U.S. shaving report.
What are some of these notable features? Among both men and women, more than 70 percent use or are interested in razors with pivot head technology, while almost 65 percent prefer razors that can be used without shaving cream or other shaving preparation products, according to Mintel.
Because men shave more frequently than women, shave care is by and large a men’s grooming category. And it’s a category that’s being upended by male millennials, half of whom use shaving subscription services such as Dollar Shave Club due to convenience, compared to just 20 percent of men age 55 and older.
In its shaving report, Mintel pointed out that 62 percent of men age 18 to 34 use — or are interested in trying — razors designed for specific body areas, while only 26 percent of baby boomer men have this predilection. In addition, 63 percent of young men use or are curious about products that bundle a razor with shaving cream, as opposed to 35 percent of boomers. And half use or would like to try masculine-scented razors, compared to just 17 percent of the boomer generation.
Across all categories, millennials and younger demographic groups prefer products that seem designed to meet their specific needs and tastes, and shave care is no exception, observes Simon Yi, a regional account manager for Cerritos, Calif.-based United Exchange Corp. (UEC). He recommends that retailers introduce private brand shave kits and products that address particular challenges or target certain demographic segments.
UEC recently developed a shave kit aimed at teenage boys with acne that includes an electronic shaver, shaving cream and a moisturizer containing salicylic acid, an ingredient that helps unclog pores and prevent lesions.
“When you shave with acne, it can be a very scary experience, as you can imagine,” Yi says “You’re talking about putting a razor over a pimple and potentially cutting it by accident.”
Rather than a close shave, safety is of utmost concern to acne sufferers. “An electronic shaver allows for less agitation and skin irritation,” Yi explains.
As a group, millennial men are more likely to be “masters of the messy look” and forgo shaving every day, states Mintel’s “Men’s Personal Care — US” report, published in October 2016. But that doesn’t mean they’re using fewer shaving and personal care products than older generations use.
On the contrary, “although younger men may be more likely to have facial hair, they still want to make a good impression and carefully maintain their facial hair,” the report points out.
In fact, “manscaping” is a major trend among young men, who are more apt to trim bushy eyebrows and ask a significant other to shave off unwanted back hair than older generations are.
To increase private brand shave care sales even more and appeal to millennial men, Yi suggests that retailers get creative with their product development and merchandising. “The package design itself should pop off the shelf,” he adds, “and tell a story that connects emotionally with the intended audience.”