Men may be more reluctant than women to buy grooming products, but their no-fuss attitude makes them perfect c-store shoppers, says Matt Chittock

Mintel’s latest report on male grooming acknowledges what the country’s wives, mothers, sisters and girlfriends have known for years when it comes to looking their best, modern men are a lazy lot.

While women enjoy a close relationship with the toiletry brands they buy, Mintel describes most men as ‘unengaged’ with the market. About a quarter can’t be bothered to try new products, and most are unwilling to spend a second more than necessary making their purchases.

Ones to watch… 

The full package 
The SuperMax combo pack contains two triple-blade razors and a 100ml foam bottle ideal. The shaving package is ideal for blokes out on business who’ve managed to leave their razors at home, or for those off on holiday. 
rrp: £2.99 
tel: 020 8844 1433 

Man up 
Are UK men still too macho for moisturiser? The 2.3 million males who buy Dove Men+Care shower gel certainly aren’t, and the brand’s £8m advertising campaign for 2011 should encourage many more to aim for smoother skin. 
rrp: £2.65 for 25ml 
tel: 0800 085 1548

So excited 
Lynx, the UK’s number one male grooming brand, continues its mission to help young men gain success with the opposite sex with a potent new variant Lynx Excite. Ladies beware, according to the TV ad one sniff will have you swooning. 
rrp: £3.25 for a case of six. tel: 0800 585204 

Cutting edge 
With technical specifications that appear to outperform most sports cars, the new Gillette Fusion ProGlide shaving system offers a serious shave, plus a way for the industry to move away from adding more blades each year. 
rrp: £9.99 
tel: 0800 5973388

Smooth operator 
Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘wet shave’, Hydro from Wilkinson Sword features fresh technology that hydrates the skin with every stroke. So, hopefully fewer men will rip their faces to shreds over the sink each morning. 
rrp: £7.99 
tel: 01494 533300

But although men’s stubbornness is enough to make manufacturers tear their hair out it’s great news for c-stores who want to keep their profits looking sharp, especially since P&G estimates that the market is worth £250m, with further room for growth in the future.

The c-store experience is tailormade for men who just want to drop in, grab what they need and go, so it’s not surprising that HIM research revealed that, in one survey of c-store customers on a mission to buy health and beauty products, a third of them were men.

As toiletry customers, the male market could help increase basket size in store, too. As Unilever Partners for Growth points out, toiletries shoppers spend £8.87 per trip compared with £5.24 by the average grocery shopper.

Guy Warner, who owns several Budgens stores in the Cotswolds, believes that male grooming is a must-stock for convenience retailers. “Any convenience store over a certain size certainly has to have some kind of male grooming offer,” he says.

“In the past five to 10 years the sector has expanded so much in terms of acceptance and range and that’s filtered through to convenience stores. Items such as razor blades, shaving gel and even moisturisers are exactly the kind of top-up items that people want to come in and grab.”

Maybe you could blame men’s innate hunter/gatherer instinct for their impatience while shopping, but one’s things for certain, they aren’t going to hang around. That’s why experts advise retailers to make it as easy as possible for men to find what they need.

“Research shows that shoppers expect to find all the male-specific products in one place in the store,” says Tom Hazelden from Partners for Growth. “Therefore it is recommended that products are merchandised by sub-categories such as razors and blades, shower, deodorants, body spray, skincare, shave prep and haircare.”

P&G head of communications Paul Lettice agrees: “In our experience, men will normally only ever remember that they need a blade or razor in-store. Visual encouragement is key, so where there is space it makes sense to stock the additional shave prep or skincare products.”

Of course, no category signposts the male grooming offer like shaving products. As well as being an essential top-up product for non-bearded blokes everywhere, it also mirrors the category’s evolving sophistication.

After all, that can of foam and rusty razor by the sink has now been largely banished in favour of shaving systems featuring pre- and post-shave products. And this constant evolution means retailers now have to keep their eye on the ball to follow trends.

“It’s about going with the market,” says Guy. “That means stocking big brands. Gillette is the market leader, and that’s what customers come in store for.”

But the recession has presented the shaving brands with a dilemma. Less money means that consumers focus on the bare essentials and the shaving systems category has declined by 1.5% as a result, according to Nielsen.

Retailer’s view

“Male grooming is important to our store because it’s always the men who are going to forget to buy toiletries. Women are better prepared they’ll pick their stuff up at the supermarket or at Boots but it’s the men who come in at the last minute to get deodorants and toothpaste. 

“As well as razors and shaving cream men come in here for branded skin creams, too. I’ve got pharmacy experience, so I’ve seen the market for men’s skincare increase in the past few years and I believe it’s definitely something c-stores should be looking at getting into. 

“For c-store owners who want to explore the male grooming market I’d say the key is to get the basics right get a planogram and stick to it, but be aware of customer demand, too. 

“Also be aware that some products are going to be targeted by thieves. Our stock is security tagged, which sorts that problem out.” 

Deepak Patel, Budgens Woodbridge, Suffolk

Men also need encouragement to trade up to new systems, posing a challenge for brands that have to convince consumers to change to a newer, better system each year in a category that’s very competitive.

“Both male and female consumers want a safe, comfortable and quality shave,” explains Karen Williams, senior product manager at Wilkinson Sword. “With these needs largely met with the current products available in the market, they are now looking for genuine innovation beyond the addition of an extra blade or a new colour razor. This means manufacturers need to work harder to capture consumer interest.”

Both Wilkinson Sword and Gillette have responded to the challenge with new products that focus on showcasing the cutting-edge technology behind their razors.

Gillette’s Fusion Proglide, launched in January, was the brand’s biggest ever and came with a big promise too, to “address every aspect of the interaction with both hair and skin”. In practice, this means special thin blades (the thinnest in Gillette’s history) covered in a low-resistance coating to banish drag, and a blade stabiliser to keep each shave on track.

Launched last year in the US, it became the country’s leading razor within two weeks. The company also relaunched its range of shaving products at the same time to incorporate ProGlide branding.

Wilkinson Sword’s Hydro is the result of six years of research and development to create a razor which, the manufacturers says, is kinder to skin while guaranteeing a high-performance shave. Improvements include an advanced hydrating gel reservoir, which enables water to interact with a special lubricant that moisturises the skin. To add further comfort, the blades are protected by guards which stop skin getting trapped and irritated.

The system has already proved popular in America, where it sold a million handles in its first two months on the shelves.

“We’re confident that retailers here in the UK are going to experience a similar uplift in sales and profitability to those in the US,” says Williams.

Canny retailers realise that well-known razor ranges can act as a springboard into the wider male grooming category.

“Retailers can benefit from dual sales by stocking a range of products that cover all of men’s shaving needs,” says P&G’s Paul Lettice.

“By stocking a clearly signposted range in a prime position within their health and beauty offerings, retailers can encourage trade up which will lead to further profit.”

If your customer profile is right it might pay to stock disposable razors alongside the main reusable ranges.

“Within the disposable sector, both a £1 price point and value for money three- and four-blade razors benefit convenience retailers,” says Jo Thiselton-Dyer, brand manager at SuperMax UK.

“It not only provides an excellent value proposition for the customer, but gives the retailer great margin opportunities to compete with the aggressive grocery price points.”

She adds that the £1 price point also means retailers can afford to put them out on shelves rather than behind the counter. The male grooming market is dominated by prestige products which often come with a comparatively high price tag, and this means they’re all too often “highly nickable,” as Guy puts it.

Partners for Growth recommends merchandising defensively to combat this moving high-value items such as razor blades to high-visibility areas so that they’re easier to keep track of.

Guy adds that it’s important to try to keep razor blades on shelf in bigger stores to avoid missing out on sales. “We keep them in lock boxes,” he says “In the past we’ve also had dummy boxes on the shelves so that customers can then take up to the till to swap for the real thing.”

In his smaller forecourt stores he’s made the decision to keep razor blades behind the counter, but admits that this harms sales potential. 

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