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Men’s Grooming: Worth the Hype?

Briony Davies
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.

Age is also a factor in uptake; the young, having been brought up with the idea, are more accepting of grooming regimes and receptive to new products, while older men are more brand loyal and used to a more basic daily hygiene regimen. While this demographic divide is proving hard to bridge, manufacturers are throwing their efforts into the task, and high-end labels such as Aramis Lab Series and Clinique Skin Supplies for Men have already successfully cracked this market.

Given the impact of demographics on product uptake, manufacturers must consider the needs of their target consumer group on a market by market basis; products cannot simply be launched on a global platform. For example, due to the conservative grooming habits of Indian males, men’s skin care is unlikely to take off without careful consideration. Most male consumers will not want to be spotted buying a skin care product, as the use of cosmetics continues to be regarded as a female habit. Creating awareness by using a celebrity spokesman to demonstrate that grooming for men is acceptable and that it serves more of a functional than cosmetic benefit is one way to change this perception.

Room for Growth in Leading Markets

The concept and culture of men’s grooming is most developed in the mature economies of Western Europe, North America and Australasia. Men in some Western European markets have traditionally followed a daily grooming regimen similar to that of women, and the trend is spreading fast throughout the region. Given that men’s grooming is relatively undeveloped compared to other cosmetics and toiletries sectors, these developed markets returned strong growth figures over the 2001–2006 period, even during the economic downturn in the U.S. However, while the sector as a whole is not mature, men’s razors and blades and deodorants are approaching maturity in these markets, and the challenge now is to expand penetration to non-core consumers and add value.

In North America, mass-market, sport- and sex-orientated brands are targeting teenage boys and younger men, while premium brands, such as Gucci Pour Homme and Aramis, are aimed at aging but more affluent men. Manufacturers are also trying to generate usage of bath and shower products and hair and skin care. There are definite signs of increasing sophistication in this market, with natural and organic products coming to market and “doctor” brands appealing to the functional needs of men.

In pre- and post-shave, the key word is “sensitive.” Nivea for Men is a good example. The brand has grown rapidly in recent years, and, as of December 2005, offered a sensitive post-shave balm, shaving cream, moisturizing lotion and face wash. Key growth opportunities lie in adding beneficial skin care properties to shave products and in continuing to cultivate acceptance of nontraditional subsectors—such as men’s skin care and bath and shower products—via advertising and editorial coverage in men’s magazines.

Latin American Men Get Skin Conscious

The Latin American men’s grooming sector is one of the world’s most dynamic, with the strong absolute gains of $1.4 billion over 2001–2006 expected to continue in the longer term. As a region, Latin America is appearance conscious, and it is becoming increasingly acceptable for men to spend money and time on grooming. Here, the key issue affecting growth is price—as opposed to men’s unwillingness to experiment with products or the lack of awareness found in other markets. Manufacturers must convince male consumers to spend on male-specific rather than gender neutral brands by offering price-competitive products with added benefits. Men’s grooming, however, still has a long way to go in the region. Men’s shaving and deodorants account for almost all sector sales. Men’s bath and shower products, hair care and skin care are still far from falling into mainstream usage, although skin care was the most dynamic subsector 2001–2006, with 35% growth, and hair care is also making solid gains, and from a larger base ($31 million absolute growth over this period compared to skin care’s $6 million).

Brazil and Mexico dominate the Latin American market, accounting for 43% and 20%, respectively, of total value sales in 2006. In Brazil, manufacturers are trying to encourage sales in the less penetrated men’s grooming subsectors with products better adapted to male habits—simple application products and suitable fragrances. Natura’s Ekos Mate Verde Cabelo e Corpo, a combined shampoo/body wash in a portable pack, is one example, and the brand’s fragrance line is already established.

In the better developed deodorants subsector, the migration of consumers from cheaper pump products, the most commonly used format, to more expensive sprays and roll-on products is a key stimulus to sales. However, keeping prices down will also be essential for future growth. At present, male-specific products cost twice as much as similar female products, negatively impacting sales.

Across Latin America, the key to growing sales is to persuade consumers to trade up to more premium razors, blades and deodorants while also stimulating usage of the less developed subsectors. Celebrity endorsements can help, especially ones that link a product to something “manly,” such as sports. Soccer star David Beckham’s collaboration with Gillette, for example, has helped promote both the latest razor and blade designs and penetrate pre- and post-shave subsectors.

Eastern Promise

Asia-Pacific may present the most promising growth prospects for men’s grooming brands. The market is large in terms of population, and is comprised of both affluently developed and fast developing countries. Asia-Pacific culture also tends to emphasize the importance of grooming—although, for men, this currently simply means good hygiene and a tidy appearance. There is not yet established demand for more sophisticated men’s grooming products, such as skin care.

Japan dominates Asia-Pacific, accounting for more than 51% of regional men’s sales in 2006. It is also an anomaly in terms of subsector sales, with hair care far outstripping sales of razors and blades. Coloring hair, particularly to cover gray, has been popular among all Japanese consumers for many years. Japan is also not a particularly hirsute culture. Hair care and razors and blades are set to dominate sales to 2011, and it will become essential to stimulate growth by developing the smaller subsectors as razors and blades reach maturity.

Multifunctionality is one way to achieve, stimulate and maintain further growth. This trend appeals to Japanese men, who would prefer one product to carry out as many functions as possible. New ingredients, especially natural ones, could also prove popular, as could convenient packaging and portable designs. Because pensioners make up an increasing portion of the population, products aimed at older men are likely to become more prevalent to 2010. Products such as wrinkle treatments are likely to do well.

South Korea, India and China are the only other men’s grooming markets of significant value in Asia-Pacific—although the sector is also beginning to generate sales in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan. South Korea is quite developed in terms of the metrosexual trend, and the emerging men’s deodorants and skin care subsectors are the key drivers of growth. The influx of new skin care product formats such as men’s face packs and masks is further stimulating sales. The evolution of functional skin care—those with whitening, antiaging and sunscreen ingredients—is also notable. In addition, manufacturers in South Korea have successfully leveraged the equity of women’s skin care brands by extending products into the men’s market via the addition of the word “Homme” and utilizing more masculine scents and packaging. Some products even verged on cosmetics—notably Vonin The Style Photogenic, a facial brightening stick that also provides a matte finish. In India and China, awareness and usage of male-specific grooming products remains at a low level, largely restricted to the urban centers. Indian per capita expenditure in 2006 was the equivalent of $0.50, compared to $12 in Japan. Nonetheless, there are ways to grow both markets by increasing awareness and acceptance of men’s grooming via advertising and smart consumer targeting—such as offering budget-priced disposable razors in rural areas and premium products in affluent urban areas.

Optimism Reigns

Although men’s grooming has not delivered the dramatic growth heralded in 2000, Euromonitor International forecasts that the category will increase by $3.5 billion, at a global level, by 2011, and the potential offered by emerging regions is clear. In developed markets, products are becoming both increasingly segmented and sophisticated. In May 2007, U.K. supermarket chain Asda broke new ground by announcing plans to develop sunscreens containing “butch, ultra-masculine” scents—including beer. It will be the first time a mainstream label offers targeted men’s sun care. Men’s makeup line launches, however, generated the most publicity for the sector. Swedish clothing chain H&M first hit the headlines with a mascara for men in January 2007. In May, Clinique added a concealer for men to its Skin Supplies range. Self-tan is also proving to be big news in men’s grooming.

Such launches are undoubtedly raising the profile of men’s grooming products generally, but it is questionable as to whether they are making use more acceptable. Attitudes take a long time to change, and Euromonitor International predicts that real growth in men’s grooming products is a longer-term prospect. It will not be until the generations of men that have been brought up with the notion of the three-step facial care regime, for example, that the men’s toiletries subsector will begin to catch up to shaving products in value sales terms. Manufacturers can make immediate gains, however, by offering male-specific versions of already accepted toiletries.

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