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Men’s Grooming—Worth the Hype?

By Briony Davies May 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Editor's Note: This article originally was published in the December 2007 issue of Global Cosmetic Industry (GCI) magazine and is being reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

For the past decade, men’s grooming has been billed as an important source of growth for the beauty industry. To date, however, the sector has failed to deliver gains as large as anticipated. Yet recent innovations, including men’s makeup, have put the sector firmly back into the headlines, and unlocking potential in developing markets is high on manufacturers’ agendas.
      At a value of $21.7 billion, according to Euromonitor International, the global men’s grooming sector is sizeable, although it accounts for only 8% of value sales in the cosmetics and toiletries market as a whole and is smaller than price-pressured commodity sectors such as oral hygiene and bath and shower products.
      In terms of dynamism, the sector grew 5% in fixed exchange rate terms in 2006—approximately on par with the entire cosmetics and toiletries market, and maturation in the traditional men’s grooming areas of shaving products and deodorants, which accounted for 79% of total sector sales in 2006, is holding back growth. Even burgeoning demand from the emerging markets and the niche appeal of newer men’s grooming subsectors—such as moisturizers, exfoliators and hair styling products—is proving insufficient to halt the slowdown.

How culture and age impact growth
      Of course, it is now more acceptable for men to take care of their appearance than in decades past. Women, too, are encouraging this notion, with the message that being well-groomed is sexy. Consumer men’s magazines—such as Maxim, GQ, Men’s Health and FHM—educate consumers and give them confidence to make purchasing decisions, while globalization and the spread of Western ideals ensure the popularity of men’s grooming is truly a worldwide phenomenon. That is not to say all men across the globe are using men’s grooming products and at an equal level. The United Kingdom is the chart-topping major market in terms of per capita expenditure at $23, while China is at the other end of the spectrum with less than $1 per capita.
      In predominantly Muslim countries, where having a beard is considered a sign of religious devotion, men’s grooming is significantly less well established. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, for example, both display per capita spending well below the global average. In the Asia-Pacific, sales are slower in the important shaving category, and despite intensive marketing in the fast-emerging economies of China and India, the two markets sit near the world bottom for per capita expenditure in the category. The spread of metrosexual ideals is evident, though, in the dynamism of what are traditionally macho cultures, such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
      South Africa was one of the world’s most dynamic men’s grooming markets, with sales increasing by more than 13% in U.S. dollar terms for the period 2005–2006. While the most widely used men’s grooming products in South Africa are extensions of well-known mainstream brands, there are several premium skin care ranges specifically targeted at men entering the market.
      Age is also a factor in uptake; the young, having been brought up with the idea, are more accepting of grooming regimens and receptive to new products, while older men are more brand loyal and used to a fairly basic daily hygiene regimen. While this demographic divide is proving hard to bridge, manufacturers are throwing their efforts into the task, and high-end labels have already successfully cracked this market.
      Given the impact of demographics on product uptake, manufacturers must consider the needs of their target consumer group on a market by market basis; products cannot simply be launched on a global platform. For example, due to the conservative grooming habits of Indian males, men’s skin care is unlikely to take off without careful consideration. Most male consumers will not want to be spotted buying a skin care product, as the use of cosmetics continues to be regarded as a female habit. Creating awareness by using a celebrity spokesperson to demonstrate that grooming for men is acceptable and that it serves more of a functional than cosmetic benefit is one way to change this perception.

Room for growth in leading markets
      The concept and culture of men’s grooming is most developed in the mature economies of Western Europe, North America and Australasia. Men in some Western European markets have traditionally followed a daily grooming regimen similar to that of women, and the trend is spreading quickly throughout the region. Given that men’s grooming is relatively undeveloped compared to other cosmetics and toiletries sectors, these developed markets returned strong growth figures over the 2001–2006 period, even during the economic downturn in the United States. However, while the sector as a whole is not mature, men’s razors and blades and deodorants are approaching maturity in these markets, and the challenge now is to expand penetration to non-core consumers and add value.
      In North America, mass-market, sport- and sex-orientated brands are targeting teenage boys and younger men, while premium brands are aimed at aging but more affluent men. Manufacturers are also trying to generate usage of bath and shower products and hair and skin care. There are definite signs of increasing sophistication in this market, with natural and organic products becoming available and doctor brands appealing to the functional needs of men.
      In pre- and post-shave products, the key word is “sensitive.” A consumer brand that offers a sensitive post-shave balm, shaving cream, moisturizing lotion and face wash is a good example, with its rapid growth in recent years. Key growth opportunities lie in adding beneficial skin care properties to shave products and in continuing to cultivate acceptance of nontraditional subsectors—such as men’s skin care and bath and shower products—via advertising and editorial coverage in men’s magazines.

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