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Men’s Grooming—Worth the Hype?

By Briony Davies
Posted: April 30, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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.

Latin American men get skin-conscious
      The Latin American men’s grooming sector is one of the world’s most dynamic, with the strong absolute gains of $1.4 billion over 2001–2006 expected to continue in the longer term. As a region, Latin America is appearance-conscious, and it is becoming increasingly acceptable for men to spend money and time on grooming.
      Here, the key issue affecting growth is price, as opposed to men’s unwillingness to experiment with products or the lack of awareness found in other markets. Manufacturers must convince male consumers to spend on male-specific products rather than gender neutral brands by offering price-competitive products with added benefits. Men’s grooming, however, still has a long way to go in the region. Men’s shaving and deodorants account for almost all sector sales. Men’s bath and shower products, hair care and skin care are still far from falling into mainstream usage, although skin care was the most dynamic subsector 2001–2006, with 35% growth.
      Brazil and Mexico dominate the Latin American market, accounting for 43% and 20%, respectively, of total value sales in 2006. In Brazil, manufacturers are trying to encourage sales in the less penetrated men’s grooming subsectors with products better adapted to male habits—simple application products and suitable fragrances—with one line offering a combined shampoo/body wash in a portable pack, for example.
      In the better developed deodorants subsector, the migration of consumers from cheaper pump products—the most commonly used format—to more expensive sprays and roll-on products is a key stimulus to sales. However, keeping prices down will also be essential for future growth. At present, male-specific products cost twice as much as similar female products, negatively impacting sales.
      Across Latin America, the key to growing sales is to persuade consumers to trade up to more premium razors, blades and deodorants while also stimulating usage of the less developed subsectors. Celebrity endorsements can help, especially ones that link a product to something manly, such as sports. Soccer star David Beckham’s collaboration with a mainstream razor company, for example, has helped promote both the latest razor and blade designs and penetrate pre- and post-shave subsectors.

Eastern promise
      The Asia-Pacific region may present the most promising growth prospects for men’s grooming brands. The market is large in terms of population and is comprised of both affluently developed and fast-developing countries. Asia-Pacific culture also tends to emphasize the importance of grooming—although, for men, this currently simply means good hygiene and a tidy appearance. There is not yet an established demand for more sophisticated men’s grooming products, such as skin care.
      Japan dominates the Asia-Pacific, accounting for more than 51% of regional men’s sales in 2006. It is also an anomaly in terms of subsector sales, with hair care far outstripping sales of razors and blades. Coloring hair, particularly to cover gray, has been popular among all Japanese consumers for many years. Japan is also not a particularly hirsute culture. Hair care and razors and blades are set to dominate sales to 2011, and it will become essential to stimulate growth by developing the smaller subsectors as razors and blades reach maturity.
      Multifunctionality is one way to achieve, stimulate and maintain this further growth. This trend appeals to Japanese men, who would prefer one product to carry out as many functions as possible. New ingredients, and particularly natural ones, could also prove popular, as could convenient packaging and portable designs. Because pensioners make up an increasing portion of the population, products aimed at older men are likely to become more prevalent through 2010. Products such as wrinkle treatments are also likely to do well.
      South Korea, India and China are the only other men’s grooming markets of significant value in the Asia-Pacific—although the sector is also beginning to generate sales in Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan. South Korea is quite developed in terms of the metrosexual trend, and the emerging men’s deodorants and skin care subsectors are the key drivers of growth. The influx of new skin care product formats, such as men’s face packs and masks, is further stimulating sales. The evolution of functional skin care—those with whitening, anti-aging and sunscreen ingredients—is also notable. In addition, manufacturers in South Korea have successfully leveraged the equity of women’s skin care brands by extending products into the men’s market via the addition of the word “Homme” and utilizing more masculine scents and packaging. Some products even verge on cosmetics—notably a facial brightening stick that also provides a matte finish.
      In India and China, awareness and usage of male-specific grooming products remains at a low level, largely restricted to the urban centers. Indian per capita expenditure in 2006 was the equivalent of $0.50, compared to $12 in Japan. Nonetheless, there are ways to grow both markets by increasing awareness and acceptance of men’s grooming via advertising and smart consumer targeting, such as offering budget-priced disposable razors in rural areas and premium products in affluent urban areas.