Gillette’s Fusion ProGlide razors landed in stores this week following an unprecedented number of orders but amid predictions from rivals that the high price tag could put men off the clean-shaven look.

Billed by Procter & Gamble as the biggest fmcg launch of 2011, the next generation of Gillette’s Fusion range will be supported by a reported £20m advertising fanfare, kicking off with TV this weekend.

P&G said it was confident British consumers would welcome the five-blade ProGlide range with the same fervour as in the US, where category sales have leapt 12% since its launch last June.

The new razors boasted the thinnest blades on the market, said Geraldine Huse, sales general manager for P&G UK, and this would encourage consumers to trade up from Fusion, the UK’s current leading razor, which recorded a 30% sales value growth to £57.7m last year [Nielsen 52w/e 2 October 2010].

“Retailers are very excited about ProGlide,” she said. “We had orders amounting to 130 truckloads we have not experienced that before at P&G.”

However, the manual ­razor has an rsp of £9.99 and the battery-powered ProGlide Power razor ­costs £12.99. This compares to £9.49 for a manual Fusion razor and £7.99 for Wilkinson Sword’s Hydro 5, which launched last October, and rivals questioned whether shoppers would be prepared to pay so much for a razor.

“How will shoppers react to ProGlide’s 33% price premium per blade compared with Fusion’s base price?” said Wibke Stoffers, marketing manager at Wilkinson Sword. “It is expensive considering the state of the economy.”

Paul Adrian, director of UK and EMEA at King of Shaves, agreed that the £9.99 base price could prove too steep for shoppers. “P&G must recoup costs if the technology is that good but £9.99 for a razor is a lot to fork out.”

The culmination of a decade of research and development, the ProGlide razor features a number of improvements to Gillette’s regular Fusion line, which as well as the thinnest blades include a comfort guard that channels excess shave preparation product and stretches the skin.

The range comprises a manual razor, battery Power razor, four skincare products and a three and six-pack box of blades.

King of Shaves is launching its first five-blade razor, Azor 5, this week with an rsp of £6.99. “We don’t have the £20m ad spend but we hope Azor 5 might disrupt ProGlide’s arrival,” said Adrian.