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The Sleeping Giant

Imogen Matthews

Men’s toiletries is one of the fastest-growing categories in beauty and personal care, trebling in value between 1997 and 2011, according to Euromonitor International (Editor’s note: Read “A New Pampering Culture Fuels Opportunity in Men’s Grooming”). Despite impressive growth, the category still lags behind the women’s beauty market and will probably never catch up.

Also according to Euromonitor, however, sales are set to rise due to changing male attitudes about grooming and a shift in key emerging regions away from manual work toward white collar jobs.

The recent recession has also benefited sales of men’s products. A common tactic for brand owners has been to diversify product ranges into categories that offer better opportunities. Men’s toiletries has been tipped by the multinationals as being relatively resilient to trading down during the recession and having strong future growth potential. Unilever, for example, expanded its female Dove toiletries brand into men’s grooming in 2010—introducing Dove Men + Care in the U.S., Italy and the U.K. Meanwhile, P&G launched Gillette Fusion ProSeries men’s skin care, targeting the growing demographic of young, image-conscious men.

Not All Regions Equal

Sales of men’s brands are highest in the U.S., which registered a 17% share of the global market in 2011, but growth has slowed as the recession took its toll. By contrast, strong sales in France, Germany and the U.K. are expected to add an additional $800 million by 2014—as European men move beyond basic products, such as razors and blades, to more sophisticated grooming regimens incorporating skin care and post-shave products.

Penetration of men’s toiletries is far lower in emerging regions—per capita spend is less than $7 per year in most parts of the Middle East and Africa, Latin America and Asia. However, the developing markets are helping to drive global growth. Some regions—such as Latin America, the Middle East and Africa—are posting double-digit increases. Brazil is a market many companies have their eyes on, although it must be said that sales of men’s skin care and bath and shower are both negligible, as there is a strong machismo culture. Brazilian men still tend to opt for traditional male products, but rapidly rising incomes should help men’s grooming brands to gain a foothold in the country.

Taking on the Big Boys

Competition in men’s toiletries is intense between the leading players Gillette, Nivea for Men and L’Oréal, making it hard for new entrants to make their mark. An exception has been King of Shaves, a U.K. brand that launched in 1993 and has taken on the big players in shaving products to expand into a global brand.

“We have doubled our U.S. sales year-on-year, and they are now growing at the same rate as in the U.K.,” says Will King,* founder and chief executive of King of Shaves. “And in 2012, we expect the sales in the U.S. to be twice as big as they are today. Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa are important, yet smaller markets for us, and in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, we are making good progress.”

King of Shaves has also taken on Gillette and Wilkinson Sword in the men’s razors segment, which King points out is a tough place to survive in, let alone thrive. “In addition, beards/groomed facial hair (designer stubble) continue to be in vogue,” King says. “This may, in part, be ascribed to celebrity influence and the fact we live in tough economic times with men perhaps adapting a ‘tough, caveman-fighting’ aesthetic.”

[Editor’s note: Read “Mintel Report Shows Shifting Facial Hair Attitudes.”]

In 2011, King of Shaves began working with Remington, a leading U.S. men’s electric grooming brand. Wet shave products now carry Remington and King of Shaves branding and are sold in 25,000 stores—including Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy, Target and Duane Reade. “The USA is a challenging environment to do business in, given our two principal wet shave competitors are U.S.-owned, but our Azor 5, which is fair-priced in an overpriced market, is doing well,” says King.

Obstacles to Growth

Most new male product initiatives have been focused on skin care, which is set to add $950 million to its value size by 2014, according to Euromonitor. The men’s category tends to reflect what is happening in the overall skin care market, with anti-aging products dominating launches. Men are less comfortable with buying a female or unisex version of an overtly feminine product, and this has helped to keep men’s skin care sales strong. However, men have been slow to embrace male-targeted hair care products. Most are happy to use a unisex shampoo or their existing shower gel. Furthermore, hair care as a whole has suffered during the global economic downturn, and Euromonitor has noted that those consumers who bought male hair care are trading back down to unisex product (Editor’s note: More information is available in the November 2011 print issue’s “A New Style for Hair Care” feature.)

King strongly doubts that men will ever spend anywhere near the amount on “shave great, look great, feel great,” i.e., cosmetic, products that women do. “The purchasing dynamic and personal aesthetic is different,” he observes.

Retailers also play a role in men’s products gaining acceptance and wider use—or lack thereof. “In the U.K., some retailers are 100% behind the men’s category, but some don’t appear to really care about it,” says King. “You’d be amazed at some of the problems regarding men’s toiletries and associated space. Incredible, as we make up approximately 50% of the U.K. population—from boys to men. It can’t just be all about the girls.”

On a brighter note, King believes that “word-of-mouse” and global interconnectivity will benefit the men’s markets in years to come. He believes that the timing for King of Shaves was good—the Internet was taking off and his products got great word-of-mouth. “Looking to the future, technology application and innovation will be key, and companies must embrace change as a constant to keep ahead of the game.”

Euromonitor International and Will King will participate at the 2012 In-cosmetics marketing trends presentations, taking place April 17–19, 2012, in Barcelona, Spain.

Imogen Matthews is a consultant to In-cosmetics. For more information, contact

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