Nonfoods Talk: Facing a dilemma

The growing popularity of facial hair has trimmed sales in the profitable shaving/razor category. 

Damn those Boston Red Sox.Seth Mendelson

Not only have they been chalking up World Series victories over the last decade while my beloved Yankees are watching from home most years, now they are helping to put a dent into sales of one of the most consistent and profitable HBC categories.

Most members of the Red Sox team vowed not to shave last season in a sign of unity for the city after the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy—and for their squad—as they hoped to win their team’s third world championship in less than a decade. By late October and the World Series, gritty players were sporting some pretty long beards and winning some pretty impressive baseball games.

The problem is that move contributed to a fad that is sweeping the country. More men might be manscaping and looking to get rid of hair on the rest of their bodies, but when it comes to their faces, they are growing more and more hair. The desire for everything from three-day stubble (that’s me) to full-fledge beards is playing a big role on sluggish sales at Gillette, the men’s care division of Procter & Gamble that was purchased nearly a decade ago. Company officials say the trend played a big role in lower-than-expected earnings at Cincinnati-based P&G.

Of course, Hollywood is also helping with this. Rarely is seen a young, good-looking man on television or in a movie these days without some sort of facial hair. What starts on the silver screen or the green ball fields of America, usually finds its way to Main Street and the general public.

Unfortunately, fewer shaves mean fewer sales of razor blades, shaving cream and after shave lotions. This is devastating news to a consistent, high-profit category like shaving/razors. Several major companies, not to mention virtually every mass retailer in the country, count on men shaving on a regular basis to bring in more sales. The fact that razor blades carry very high price points and great penny profits with them should not be overlooked at any time.

So where does that leave the retail community? Frankly, retailers and suppliers are simply going to have to wait for this fad to play itself out. It is very hard to change a trend and right now facial hair is in. But that does not mean the retail community needs to sit idly by and wait for the time that a clean-shaven look is in.

More than ever, men are looking for beauty care products to help with their appearance. What started with younger men and teenagers has now moved on to many older men. Retailers need to react by carrying more items specific to men in their hair care, skin care and deodorant categories. It will serve to boost store traffic, sales and profits from these categories.

Are you going to the GMDC events this year? If you are a retailer looking to build sales in the nonfoods category, I suggest you do go. GMDC remains the premier event for the GM/HBC categories, simply because the two shows bring together such a large number of retailers and suppliers in one, easy-to-work setting.

For those who do not know, suppliers and retailers get to sit down in one-on-one meetings designed to allow for easy communication and, ultimately, a smooth way to do business. In my opinion, the GMDC conferences have done more for nonfoods in supermarkets than any other event.

The HBC/Wellness conference is in Orlando starting on May 29. The general merchandise conference is in San Antonio in early September. Go to the association’s website at for more information. 

Seth Mendelson can be reached at  646-274-3507, or

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