Nonfoods Talk: The man cave

Enticing adult men into your grooming section is only half the battle. Retailers need to target teenagers as well if they want to maximize sales from this section.

My relationship with my two teenage sons has reached a point that I was warned about for years. Right now, neither one—not the 17-year-old nor the 14-year-old—spends much time talking to me.

Outside of some conversations about sporting events, our favorite teams and asking me for money, these two kids have basically shut off the spigot when it comes to talking to dad. I thought I was a bad parent until my friends told me that it was pretty normal and just a temporary fad that should run its course in five to seven years.

But the lack of conversation does not mean that we do not interact. I now spend a lot of time observing how they live their lives. One thing that is totally clear is they are paying a lot of attention to their appearances and they are spending a lot of money—my money—in the process.

For example, the older one seems to have some sort of addiction to Axe, the Unilever deodorant that apparently has caught the attention of just about every teenage boy—and an increasing number of girls—in the country. Just last week I heard him screaming that he had run out of the deodorant and needed someone to go out and buy him more.

There are many more products in his medicine chest. He has about five different types of acne medicine, though frankly I do not see much of a problem with acne on his face. He also has a special brand of toothpaste—the name of which he will not share and does a good job of hiding. He has told me that all the kids use it and it is not for old people.

Of course, there are some things I simply do not want to know about.

This month, Grocery Headquarters features an article on men’s grooming in our Nonfoods for Profit section. It discusses the increasing demand among adult men for grooming products and the need for supermarket retailers to expand their selections in this growing section. The best news for retailers is that adult men are more interested in how the product works than what it costs. That should be good news for those merchants who create the right product mix in the men’s grooming section.

While retailers need to pay more attention to adult men, they should also look at the booming market for health and grooming products for boys between the ages of 13 and 21.

Mimicking their older counterparts, these fledgling consumers, like my kids, are eagerly buying products that make them look and smell better and very often they are not looking at price-points before purchasing these items.

Now retailers and suppliers have to react to the man revolution—both young and not-so-young. Manufacturers need to keep introducing items that catch the attention of male shoppers and do what is necessary to make sure guys know that these items are available and how they are going to help.

Retailers must create a men’s section that is easy to shop and filled with the right items for extremely fickle, yet demanding, male shoppers. Price, as discussed, does not have to be as much of an issue as selection and ambiance. The key is to make sure that men know the products are available in-store and they can get in and out quickly.

Overheard at the National Grocers Association annual convention in Las Vegas last month: Two independent retailers were discussing how difficult it is to get health and beauty care companies to pitch them on new products. Said one: “I compete with a national drugstore chain across the street and I can’t get the suppliers to come into my store. We outdraw them on traffic, three to one. I am positive I can sell a bunch of HBC products if they just took my operation more seriously.” 

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