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Men’s Grooming: Worth the Hype?

By: Briony Davies
Posted: December 10, 2007, from the December 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.
For the past decade, men’s grooming has been billed as an important source of growth for the beauty industry. To date, however, the sector has failed to deliver gains as large as anticipated. Yet, recent innovations,  including men’s makeup, have put the sector firmly back into the headlines, and unlocking potential in developing markets is high on manufacturers’ agendas.

At a value of $21.7 billion, according to Euromonitor International, the global men’s grooming sector is sizeable, although it accounts for only 8% of value sales in the cosmetics and toiletries market as a whole and is smaller than price-pressured commodity sectors (oral hygiene and bath and shower products, for example). In terms of dynamism, the sector grew 5% in fixed exchange rate terms in 2006—approximately on par with the entire cosmetics and toiletries market. Maturation in the traditional men’s grooming areas of shaving products and deodorants, which accounted for 79% of total sector sales in 2006, is holding back growth. Even burgeoning demand from the emerging markets and the niche appeal of newer men’s grooming subsectors—such as moisturizers, exfoliators and hair styling products—is proving insufficient to halt the slowdown.

Culture, Age Impact Growth

It is now more acceptable for men to take care of their appearance than in decades past. Women, too, are encouraging this notion, with the message that being well-groomed is sexy. Consumer men’s magazines—such as Maxim, GQ, Men’s Health and FHM—educate consumers and give them confidence to make purchasing decisions, while globalization and the spread of Western ideals ensure that the popularity of men’s grooming is truly a worldwide phenomenon. That is not to say that all men across the globe are using men’s grooming products and at an equal level. The U.K. is the chart-topping major market in terms of per capita expenditure at $23, while China is at the other end of the spectrum with less than $1 per capita expenditure.

In predominantly Muslim countries, where having a beard is considered a sign of religious devotion, men’s grooming is significantly less well established. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example, both have a per capita spend well below the global average. In Asia-Pacific, sales are slower in the important shaving category, and despite intensive marketing in the fast-emerging economies of China and India, the two markets sit near the world bottom for per capita expenditure on the category. The spread of metrosexual ideals is evident, though, in the dynamism of what are traditionally “macho” cultures, such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

South Africa was one of the world’s most dynamic men’s grooming markets, with sales increasing by more than 13% (in U.S. dollar terms) for the period 2005–2006. While the most widely used men’s grooming products in South Africa are extensions of well-known mainstream brands, there are several premium skin care ranges specifically targeted at men entering the market. Hugo Boss has a men’s skin care range linked to its popular fragrance range. Estée Lauder’s Lab Series is another premium skin care range for men that is doing well in South Africa. Clarins also launched Nickel, a new premium male skin care range, in February 2006, indicating that male consumers in this market are increasingly amenable to nontraditional products.