There have been false starts over the past few years, with brands and retailers both guilty of perhaps pushing their male shoppers a little faster into the sector than they'd like to go. Boots had to pull out of its trials of men-only stores last year when it found the market wasn't big enough to sustain standalone outlets, and Lever Fabergé has pulled the plug on its Lynx hair care range and hair salons. Despite the setbacks, however, there's no doubt male consumers are increasingly mimicking their vainer female counterparts and filling the bathroom cabinets with an array of products from styling gel to aftershave balm and face scrub. Tesco appears to be leading the way. It has created health and beauty zones in larger stores, which are separate to the normal run of the grocery aisles. Its innovations with own labels and sub-brands such as Tesco Makeup and Skin Wisdom, created by holistic therapist Bharti Vyas, has seen it fêted by beauty journalists. It's now using the kudos established in women's products to build a reputation in male grooming. At the beginning of the year an exclusive deal with Procter & Gamble saw the launch of haircare range Physique, and in May it began stocking So Dam Tuff, a range of 12 mid-priced grooming products with prices ranging from £3.99 for a cleansing bar up to £15 for cologne. By stocking niche brands or products on an exclusive basis, Tesco can claim an edge over rivals. For instance, So Dam Tuff is named after the London-based male model agency and when it launched in March was only available through a handful of upmarket, independent outlets in the capital. Tesco was also cute in its marketing tactics for So Dam Tuff. Normal launch mechanics such as promotions and a plug in the Tesco Clubcard magazine wouldn't be noticed by the brand's target audience ­ young men in their teens and 20s ­ and therefore wouldn't work. Instead the chain used Dunnhumby Cinnamon, the direct marketing agency arm of Dunnhumby, the data management and customer analysis specialists. It launched a postcard campaign to 100,000 young male shoppers on the Clubcard database. Laura Scarlett, Dunnhumby Cinnamon MD, says the approach was hugely successful for Tesco ­ bringing in around £1m in sales so far. "Tesco originally considered making the range own-label but instead chose to maintain the So Dam Tuff brand ­ young men are very brand conscious. However, this is a brand which does not take itself too seriously and is about having fun." The postcards feature Castro, a bull terrier, striking a series of poses in a mirror. Scarlett says the dog was a great way of communicating the humour of the brand: "He looks tough but he still cares about his image. We used him instead of the usual gorgeous male models, and it's gone down a storm." But the chain hasn't stopped there and is also keen to impress its more sophisticated shoppers. It has just launched a range of male grooming products under its Skin Wisdom brand. The premium shaving products were developed by skincare-to-the-stars beauty expert Bharti Vyas and are yet more proof that Tesco is taking male grooming seriously (see panel). But on a wider scale it's been mass market brand Lynx from Elida Fabergé which has helped foster better grooming habits in the UK's men. Information Resources data, which measures the market through the multiples including Boots and Superdrug, puts the male grooming market at £351.7m (excluding razors and blades). It says the category showed 4.25% growth last year as penetration levels increased. It says the category can be split into six sectors: antiperspirants and bodysprays; haircare; shaving preparations; aftershave fragrances; shower; and facial. The biggest growth has come from the £8.9m facial sector, says Elida Fabergé. Its value has increased by 57.8% and now accounts for around 2.5% of the category. Bella Skinner, category strategy manager for Elida Fabergé, agrees with Phil Hancock, Asda's health and beauty buyer, saying men need a simple offer they can easily understand. "Once men are at the fixture they don't want to spend long looking trying to find things." And she adds that men, even more than women, like to buy the big brands. "Anything that is advertised is reassuring. They also buy things on word of mouth and the packaging must look masculine." Elida Fabergé relaunched its Lynx range in March this year with £7.5m support. The relaunched range includes the patented triple active system' for deodorants, which, says Elida Fabergé, means longer lasting protection. The bodyspray range packaging has also been redesigned to eliminate the need for a cap, which, says Skinner, is a development which has scored well in consumer research. It has also just launched Post Shave Moisturiser and Post Shave Gel into the Lynx range. Skinner says that whereas in the past manufacturers might have shied away from giving male products female terminology ­ often replacing the word moisturiser with something more masculine ­ today men like products which do exactly what they say on the can. "They just want to look straight at the packaging and see what the product is ­ they're not interested in how it works or what it contains in the way women are. And whereas women will use something for long-term effect, men want a product which will solve an immediate problem such as soreness from razor burn." However, there are still areas where men find it difficult to understand why they need their own products. Lynx shampoo, which launched in November 2000, was pulled at the start of this year and the hair salons which opened in August 2000 also closed in January. Skinner says Elida Fabergé is still looking at ways to tap the male shampoo and conditioner market. Asda's Hancock agrees men are not ready for their own shampoo ranges because they still view the category by hair type, not by gender. But when it comes to looking after their hair, men believe the secret is not with shampoo and conditioner but in the finish, which explains why styling products are doing so well. This fact is not lost on Brylcreem, the male grooming brand owned by Sara Lee Household and Body Care UK. It has just relaunched its waxes and creams with new packs and formulations. It's also launched Next Generation Gels which the brand says are "flake-free", dry faster than traditional products, and deliver a superior hold. The brand has just appointed top hairdresser Martyn Gayle as style director. He says while there isn't one specific strong look in vogue right now, there is a strong trend towards texture but with low maintenance. "It's about looking cool but without spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. A lot of young guys do not want to spend time spot welding' their hair." He says products such as Brylcreem's new Reshaper Putty and Gum are perfect for the look. Other products in the range, with rsps from £1.99 to £3.99, include Ultra Gel, UV Glow Gel ­ which glows in ultra violet light ­ Easy Wash Wax, and Wax stick. The razors and blades market is one arena which cannot afford to stand still. Technology is key to maintaining interest and higher margins. Neil Murray, Wilkinson Sword marketing director, says: "In the last 10 years there have been 14 new product launches into the sector. People would like something better than they've already got ­ they wonder if it will give them a closer shave, will the blades last longer, will it be less hassle." New technological developments to the Protector are under way but a few years off launch. Murray stresses that retailers still have a big part to play in stocking a wider range of products and "managing" shoppers away from old technology handles to buy the newer products. "I think razors and blades are not given enough space considering the size of the market and I don't think the sector is fully realising its potential." He said retailers stocking old systems should perhaps encourage them to trade up to bigger pack sizes and look at ways of attracting them to newer systems using strong instore signposting. Gillette's assistant business manager Jude Bowman agrees that ranging, planogramming and display are vital. "Stocking the optimum range, whether a small core of bestsellers or extended choice including niche brands, is key." Unlike Asda's merchandising by product category, merchandising by brand is important, says Bowman, because so many users start with a preferred brand and then choose from its product range. But, he adds, the real battles in male grooming do not relate to the category itself but to the battle for share between supermarkets, discounters, traditional health and beauty high street retailers and independent chemists. "There are a whole range of strategies, many price-related, being employed to grow share of this sector. "It is very competitive and very dynamic. Grocery retailers are getting more and more sophisticated at retailing men's grooming and this is impacting on the traditional high street health and beauty sector. "In many cases the fundamentals are in place and they will lead the way for retailers to take a true category approach. The challenge is for them to capitalise on this without driving value and profit out of the category via price deflation." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}