Face forward

An infusion of new products helps to invigorate the men’s grooming category. Now it’s up to retailers to carry that momentum forward.

By Carol Radice

Compared to women, men have historically had limited options when it comes to deodorant, shaving, soap, shampoo and other related products. And let’s face, it, for the most part men were fine with it. However, as more young men become shoppers, that’s hardly the case any longer. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

Thanks in part to men’s magazines, nearly all of which have a section dedicated to the latest products and trends in grooming, men are better educated about how to best take care of themselves and as a result are increasingly seeking out gender-specific products that will make them look good, feel good and smell good.

As a result, a wide range of companies—from Procter & Gamble and Unilever to derma e Natural Bodycare, Wahl Clipper and Grand Brands—are expanding their offerings of male-centric products.

Noting the role that innovation, convenience and research are playing in driving sales of men’s grooming products, Jeff Carducci, national sales director for derma e Natural Bodycare, based in Simi Valley, Calif., says retailers who play to this can build sales in the category. “The highly involved man is looking for department-store quality and benefits at an affordable price. He is also looking for products that possess more than one attribute or function. For example, we’ve seen a lot of interest from men looking for a single product that can be used as a hair, face and body wash. And, as is the case with woman-specific products, interest in anti-aging face crèmes for men is strong.”

While interest is up, some company officials say factors such as the struggling economy are placing an even higher onus on retailers to go beyond merchandising and promotional basics if they expect to convince consumers to open their wallets. “The recession has clearly impacted the male grooming category,” says Anne Westbrook, men’s grooming external relations specialist with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. “In the current economic climate, consumers are rethinking their budgets. More than ever, marketers need to communicate value to consumers.”

Comfortable skin

The recession isn’t stopping companies, however, from researching opportunities and leveraging their consumer insights to launch innovative new products. In reviewing the current men’s grooming offerings, Kathy O’Brien, vice president, skin, for Greenwich, Conn.-based Unilever, says company officials discovered that even though men reach a point in their lives when they become comfortable with themselves, they don’t always have comfortable skin to match. “Men’s No. 1 skin complaint is dry skin and we often heard many men blaming their socks for dry, itchy skin when it’s actually harsh cleansers that cause their skin to lose moisture,” she says. “Leveraging our cleansing and moisturizing heritage we recently created Dove Men+Care, which is clinically proven to fight skin dryness with no irritation or tightness.”

Developed specifically for men, according to O’Brien, the line provides the cleansing and refreshment men want combined with Dove’s moisturizers to literally provide total skin comfort. “Dove Men+Care is the only men’s body wash with ultra-light micromoiiture technology, a unique gel technology that activates on skin during lather,” she says. The body wash is available in Clean Comfort, Extra Fresh and Deep Clean scents. O’Brien notes the second product, the Dove Men+Care Body and Face bar, contains one-quarter moisturizing cream and has been ergonomically redesigned to fit comfortably in a man’s hand. The third component of the line, she adds, is the Dove Men+Care Active Clean Shower Tool. Designed with two surfaces, the Shower Tool is designed to fit a man’s hand without slipping, and delivers maximum lather and scrub from every shower, notes O’Brien, who adds that the Dove Men+Care packaging, which features dark colors such as blue and grey, was designed to appeal to men.

P&G officials say they are in the process of launching new Gillette and Old Spice products. “Gillette will be introducing their Odor Shield line of body washes and anti-perspirant/deodorants which feature proprietary odor shield technology that targets and neutralizes odor at the source to help eliminate body odor instead of just covering it up,” says Westbrook. “Research shows using these two products together offer 10 times more odor protection.” The company is also introducing a new Odor Blocker body wash for its Old Spice brand.

Westbrook says that testing shows body washes having a perfume system designed with the Old Spice Odor Blocker technology provide long-lasting freshness (about 16 hours) as well as neutralizing/blocking benefits versus current market body washes.

Westbrook also points out that linking men’s products with partners and activities that they admire and are familiar to them, such as the NFL, is a growing trend. “P&G invests heavily in understanding and securing a variety of [partners] which best deliver our message where and when men are most receptive. The NFL is one of our newest [partners], which makes a lot of sense since football is the No. 1 sport among men,” she says, noting that P&G’s men’s grooming products now carry the designation “Official Locker Room Product of the NFL.” “They transform dirty, smelly warriors of the field in to well-groomed icons of the people,” says Westbrook.

Beyond the basics, officials at derma e note men are also seeking out products that address specific issues. Carducci says derma e’s pycnogenol skincare line, for example, is popular with men looking for a facial care product that will cleanse as well as moisturize the skin. “These fragrance-free formulas deliver effective concentrations of antioxidants and nourishing botanicals to help support collagen and elastin health and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, the pycnogenol line is ideal for sensitive, red or irritated skin,” he says.

“Men with common problem skin conditions also find our treatment products helpful. Derma e’s Tea Tree and E Bath and Shower Gel is a natural antibacterial cleanser ideal for problem skin conditions including blemishes and rashes, and makes an excellent after sports shower gel to help prevent fungal skin issues and body odor,” says Carducci. Likewise, derma e’s Tea Tree and E Antiseptic Crème also helps a wide variety of skin problems such as fungal issues, athlete’s foot, ringworm, cuts, scrapes, canker sores, blisters, rashes and dermatitis. “Our Psorzema products calm and moisturize severely dry, itchy, flaky and inflamed skin that can often be associated with eczema and psoriasis.”

Noting that the category has evolved and matured over the past two years, Sue Hunt, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Grand Brands, says body wash has been a surprise hit. “To a large extent, it is the younger crowd driving sales in men’s grooming,” says Hunt. “Most men over 50 cannot tell you what shampoo they use nor do they particularly care. They have never been involved in the buying experience. With the increase in affluence of younger women, and a better division of responsibilities, young men are shopping for themselves and purchasing their own grooming products. That said, they are looking for a product designed and marketed specifically for them.”

In response to these trends, the company has recently introduced a line of products geared toward men under its Lander brand. According to Hunt, the Lander Essentials For Men 3-in-1 line was designed to add simplicity to men’s grooming regimens. “The initial product includes a 3-in-1 body, face and shampoo which comes in two scents—one being a light, energetic and refreshing and the other a rugged, warm and spicy scent—developed to be on-trend with what men in the market find appealing in an all-in-one product,” she says.

Tackling challenges

While men are becoming more conscious of various grooming products, experts say grocers are up against some challenges if they hope to appeal to this burgeoning consumer base. To start with, women are their primary customers and grocery is not often thought of as a destination for men’s grooming, two things officials say need to be addressed before retailers can truly build sales in the category.

Steven Yde, senior product manager for Wahl Clipper Corp., based in Sterling, Ill., says for grocers to be seen as destinations they cannot be intimidated by higher price point items in the category. “When customers know you are in a category they will shop there,” says Yde. “By sup­plementing with a good impulse choice you can keep interest up and drive foot traffic into the category.”

Yde says retailers can turn to the pet category for inspiration on ways to broaden the men’s grooming category. “If a grocery store only carries the opening price point cat and dog food and does not carry the wet goods, toys and rawhide, many consumers will not think of that grocer as being in the category,” he says. “Grocery has done a great job of creating a destination for pet products within their stores and the same can be done in personal care for men.”

According to Yde, sales statistics from the past year prove his point. “While the men’s grooming category was only up 2% in dollars and down over 12% in units, the dollar increase above $30 was up tremendously. For example, from  $30 to $35 the market was up 60% and from $35-up it was up over 20%,” he says. “Wahl’s Lithium Ion Groomer was really driving the category by trading consumers up. As a result we ended the year up double digits, helping lead the market in positive dollar territory,” he says.

“Interestingly, what really tanked in the market was the opening price point segments. Not as many people were shopping because of the economy, but those that did stayed away from lower price points and opted for quality products that are going to last.

“In tough economic times, categories move from impulsive to more destination purchases and grocers need to let their customers know they are in the category in a serious manner. Personal hygiene is a good category for grocery and as people walk down that aisle and see quality products, they will not break from their routine and go somewhere else for their next trimmer or electric shaver,” adds Yde.

The success of Wahl’s Lithium Ion Grooming Kit, which launched in the spring of 2009, has even taken the company by surprise. “The overwhelming sales it has done at retails much higher than the market has traditionally had success with has been amazing and a testament that price is less of a factor that retailers think with this category,” says Yde. “Recessions redefine categories—sometimes it pushes everything to the bottom and sometimes it pushes categories up, which is the case in men’s grooming. There is a huge opportunity for grocers to be a part of the nearly 12 million appliances that people purchase every year for trimming hair on and around the face.”

Simplify shopping

To compete with drugstores and mass retailers, industry observers say grocers need to focus on making the men’s grooming category easy to shop, place it in a high traffic location and beef up their assortments to offer a wider breadth of product.

“With a portfolio of grooming brands that target quality and budget-conscience consumers, P&G is uniquely poised to help Americans across the country weather the economic crisis while still looking and feeling their best,” says Westbrook. P&G, she notes, is helping consumers understand the value of premium brands through value reframing initiatives, trial incentives, promotional plans and most importantly, by continuing to produce and promote products that deliver on their performance promises.

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