Upscale Shaving: Unilever Bets More Men Will Spend Big

Upscale Shaving: Unilever Bets More Men Will Spend Big

By Kurt Soller January 23, 2014

How much is a great shave worth? If you visit one of Manhattan’s high-end Fellow Barbers, the answer’s $40. Dove Men+Care is hoping guys will spend even more. This January the Unilever (UL) brand introduced its Expert Shave, a three-step, five-product regimen promising to eliminate stubble. It has a steep buy-in: $21.99 for one of two preshave options—an exfoliator to fight ingrown hair or a softening oil—and $21.99 or $25.99 for shaving cream for either normal or drier skin, plus $25.99 for a postshave balm the company claims repairs skin while being “intense.” All told, it’s about $70.

“Fifty percent of guys don’t like shaving because of irritation,” says Rob Candelino, Unilever’s vice president for marketing. For this group, the company launched more basic Dove Men+Care face-moisturizing and shaving products last March, with prices under $8. It sold well, so executives decided to upgrade the concept. “With our mass-market stuff, 10¢ can make a lot of difference,” Candelino says. “But when competing with products sold at department stores, we’re less interested in the minutiae of a dollar.” That’s because the majority of potential customers will already be using equally expensive competitors such as the $19 Ultimate Brushless Shave Cream by Kiehl’s, owned by L’Oréal (LRLCY) since 2000, or the $25 lavender-scented lather fromProcter & Gamble’s (PG) Art of Shaving line. Unlike these offerings, the Expert Shave items will be sold primarily at mainstream retailers such as Target (TGT), where curious men can stumble upon them while checking off their shopping lists of deodorant, toilet paper, and Doritos.

Last year, market research firm NPD Group found that sales of “prestige” men’s skin care (which doesn’t technically include Dove Men+Care’s line, but is the closest category comparison in terms of price and premium ingredients) jumped 3 percent, to $70 million, according to analyst Karen Grant. “The younger generation is more accustomed to buying these products,” she says. “So we expect it to continue growing as more men come of age.”

Many companies are getting in on the game. In November, Tom Ford introduced a dozen face products for men, including a $25 lip balm. L’Oréal in September bought Baxter of California, a niche luxury skin-care line, in an attempt to expand in e-commerce. One of the founders of eyewear startup Warby Parker co-created Harry’s, an Internet company that mails shaving cream and $40 monogrammable aluminum razors. And GQ magazine plans to profit from $75 shave-and-haircuts at its new barbershop in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. (P&G’s Gillette is going the opposite direction, introducing $7.97 men’s body razors this February for shaving below the neck.)

To sell the new shaving routine, Unilever used money that might have gone toward conventional advertising to produce sleek in-store displays telling men to “think beyond your razor” and offering tester bottles. These displays also highlight the line’s packaging, which is conveniently mirrored. Because a man has no better argument for pampering himself than a good hard look at his own scruffy face.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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