Men are starting to muscle in on toiletries and grooming - a market that was once very much the preserve of women. Stefan Chomka reports

It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets that men are in fact more concerned about their appearance than women, but at last they are finally being up front about how much they value their looks.
While it recently emerged that Tony Blair has spent more than £1,000 on cosmetics since 1999, the prime minister is by no means an exception.
This is the age of the metrosexual, the retrosexual and the millennium male, a new breed of men much more concerned about their appearance.
TNS, which values the men’s toiletries market at £541m, excluding razor blades, says the market is growing in value 8% year-on-year [52 w/e May 22, 2005], and that more men are buying into the category.
However, for the real signs that men are finally starting to get more in touch with their feminine side, you need look no further than the aisles of supermarkets.
Take, for example, Veet, a brand known among many of the female population but that was largely unheard of by men, and which entered male grooming for the first time in March with Veet for Men.
With two products - Gel Cream and a Ready-to-Use Wax - Veet is one of the first mainstream products to address the issue of male hair removal, and was launched in response to what it points out is the booming market for male grooming.
According to consumer research by Veet, 34% of UK men who don’t use a hair removal product would like to, but are either too nervous to go to a salon or worry about the itchy, stubbly regrowth caused by shaving. The product, which can be used to remove hair from back, chests, arms legs and underarms, dissolves hair without the need for shaving.
“One in 10 of our women’s products are purchased by men, so a market exists for the products,” says Mark Little, Veet for Men brand manager.
“When Veet for Men was launched in Australia in 2004, it doubled the market in only two months. We’re hoping for similar success here.”
Veet may just achieve this goal if figures from TNS are anything to go by. Skincare, which is worth £50m, is up 23.1% in value, and has recorded the third-highest growth in the past year, behind only shampoo and toilet soap.
Chris Silcock, health and
beauty buyer at Asda, believes that men are becoming more open to grooming and skincare products.
“Male grooming is no longer seen as taboo among men,” he says. “Key influences such as men’s lifestyle magazines and familiar figures such as David Beckham have helped to raise awareness and drive acceptability among consumers.
“Innovation is key - strong launches such as Mach3 Power and L’Oréal Men Expert have contributed not just to sales but to general awareness of the category with our shoppers.”
But before diving headlong into the category, companies need to know their target market, says James Griffin, category manager for deodorants at Unilever Home and Personal Care.
“Everyone is talking about male toiletries but it is important to keep things in perspective. Guys have bought into it but it takes a long time for people to change habits.”
Griffin says that the majority of purchases of male toiletries are still made by women on direction from their partners and that companies need to understand buying patterns.
“Guys shop in a very different way to women. Women spend more time in-store and are prepared to ask where things are - men shop off the normal shelf and not off promotional ends.
“When men get to the fixture they know what they want before they arrive. They look in the same place they bought it last time.”
He adds: “In high-street stores, one of the big moves is to site the men’s area close to the lunch fixture - food is a high-selling line and having the male fixture near is a good idea.”
Julie Baker, marketing director at Sanex, supports the view that women play a pivotal role in the male grooming market, but says that times are changing. “Ten years ago it was more common for men to ask their partners to buy products and not be so worried about them.
“However, the rise in single households and magazines such as FHM have made it acceptable.
“There are still some guys that are not fussed and use whatever is in the bathroom, but there is a big increase in the number of men purchasing for themselves.”
However, according to Mark Wickens, chairman at brand agency Brandhouse WTS, companies need to work harder to unlock the full potential of the category. “There is a lack of consumer interest in the market,” he says.
“To grow the male side, companies need to better understand the market. They need to use very imaginative research to unearth insight into the way men look at the category.”
David Jones, director at design consultancy Vario, says: “There seems to be a lack of understanding among brands - particularly those making the transition from a feminine or general personal care background - of how their brands should be connecting with the male of the species.”
Wickens believes Gillette has got the closest so far in effectively targeting men by linking shaving with success. “Gillette moved the world from shaving to grooming,” he says.
He also warns that other brands should watch out if they want to retain brand share.
“The competitive battlefield is not as well established as in some sectors. An unknown brand can still come in and own the category.”
Unilever’s Griffin also foresees new developments on the horizon, but says that growth will be more long term. “The men’s market is going to expand into new areas but it will take time. Will it look radically different in two years’ time? No. But in 10 years? Yes.”