If you want to get ahead you have to look good; you need to be well-dressed, modern, clean-cut and straightforward in your presentation. And that's just the retailers.
Supermarkets are taking male grooming ever more seriously, as highlighted by major initiatives already under way at Sainsbury's and Asda.
Last month Sainsbury's introduced a dedicated men's zone devoted to all toiletries formulated specifically for men, which it claims to be a first for UK supermarkets. Products such as shampoo, soap, moisturiser, deodorant and shaving balm are being displayed together rather than in their parent section. Sainsbury's men's toiletries buyer Guy Meakin says: "Male grooming is a very important market experiencing very high growth, higher than that for similar products in female toiletries and beauty products. The men's toiletries category is one of the fastest-growing areas of Sainsbury's health and beauty offer."
Asda, meanwhile, has been deliberating on how best to capture the hearts, minds and money of today's well-groomed shopper. "We are questioning the layout of the fixture," says men's toiletries and deodorant buyer Chris Silcock.
"There is loads of stuff on other fixtures, such as designer haircare brands or condoms on the healthcare fixture, which would work in the men's fixture. We are doing a trial splitting out depilatory products and women's shaving products from men's toiletries and segregating them more clearly. We've been giving it a lot of thought and you will see more changes soon."
One of those changes may be the placing of unisex products in the men's fixture, which seems to fly in the face of the notion that men want men-only areas.
It is widely accepted that men are grab-and-go shoppers. They don't saunter and they don't like browsing; they want shopping to be finished as quickly and effortlessly as possible.
Meakin says: "Blokes get nervous if they are hanging around the fixture for too long. They don't like it to be near areas where females may slow down their shop by spending time at the fixture. They just want to be able to get what they want quickly. If they brush bottoms with a woman shopping a fixture behind them, they have been known to drop their shopping and run off."
According to Meakin, the idea of creating men's zones is to make men feel more comfortable with an area that is just for them. In fact, in the US some stores have grouped men's magazines and beers nearby to get as close as possible to a pure men's zone. Silcock counters that siting unisex products with men's products broadens the spectrum of products available to men who are often reluctant to venture into fixtures.
"We are working through the possible effects of putting unisex products in the men's section. Will you alienate women or will you benefit by making men more comfortable? Women browse for longer, so if you force them to go down the men's fixture looking for theirs and their partners' products they may well see things that they will buy for their partner to try."
Tesco believes that both sexes must be catered for. Senior buying manager, toiletries, health and beauty, Ro Sakhuja says: "Actual purchase is a mix between self-purchase and women buying for the males in their household, be they teenagers or partners, so it's important we cater for both sexes in the aisle."
Both Meakin and Silcock say that dressing the men's grooming fixture next to feminine care is a nightmare for most male shoppers, as is placing it next to any overtly female categories. Meakin also stresses the value of education. "In 300 stores we have information for men on the difference between a body spray and an antiperspirant deodorant, plus information on the perfect shave and skin," he says.
Supermarkets also acknowledge the importance of brands as signposts, but men decide what type of product they want first and what brand second. They are notoriously loyal to brands, but equally prone to just grabbing anything if put under any pressure.n
Shaving How to get the perfect shave
There are between 7,000 and 15,000 hair follicles on a man's face and each hair will grow an average of 26.5 ft in his lifetime. It is not surprising, then, that most men dread the daily grind of shaving or that so much money is spent trying to make it a more comfortable and less painful activity.
While some males do try to stick with the same razor for as long as possible, such as the man recently documented in the national press who has used the same razor for 77 years, many are attracted by the plethora of new products that constantly hit the market, offering a greater number of blades, moisturising strips and safety features.
As such, the blades and razors sector is extremely important to the male market, worth an estimated £267m, according to Gillette.
Gillette and Wilkinson Sword dominate the sector and have battled for supremacy for decades. Most recently the battle has taken products from three blades to razors with micro pulses and then four-blade razors, and now Gillette is about to up the ante with its five-blade Fusion razor. Fusion was launched in the US last year and retailers and consumers alike have been eagerly awaiting its UK debut: it hit shops last week.
Fusion, which is Gillette's biggest launch yet, is a five-blade disposable razor that comes in both manual and the battery-operated Power variety. Its features include a lubricated strip that turns white when it has run out, and a precision trimmer on the reverse for hard-to-reach areas, such as sideburns and under the nose.
Wilkinson Sword category development director Julian Williams acknowledges that new product development has been nothing short of frantic. "We and Gillette have been very aggressive in our approach to the market," he says. "You used to get one major new system launch every five years; now you are getting it every three years."
Williams won't rule out the launch of an even greater number of blades than on the Fusion five. "Guys want closeness of shave and we will give them that, but you also have to think about when the number of blades becomes a gimmick," he says. "Closeness is important but it must be allied to consumers' other needs. The number one thing they want is the reduction of irritation, followed by smoothness and quality of shave."
As the number of blades rises, so too does the price. "There is a ceiling for blade prices and the key test is what happens now," says Williams. "Fusion may be one step too far."
Indeed, Gillette's new baby has received rave reviews for performance, but a less enthusiastic reception on price in the US.
Blades cost £14.99 for eight for the manual razor and £18.99 for Power, but Gillette says that it is confident that consumers will pay for the development. "People are quite prepared to trade up," says a spokeswoman. However, she adds that technological advancement in the category can't continue at its current pace. "It is going to have to stop somewhere."
Disposable razors have become ever more commoditised as the long-term trend towards trading up to premium razors continues. That said, launches from Wilkinson Sword, Gillette and Bic, all of which have been triple-blade offers with moisturising and lubricating strips, have helped to put value back into the market.
The slow, steady shift from dry to wet shaving seems set to continue with 75% of men choosing wet over dry, according to industry estimates. However, electric shaver manufacturers are far from rolling over. Braun launched PocketGo, a compact battery-powered shaver, in June to capitalise on recent growth in the segment.
The shaver features a twist cap, which is an integral handle and foil protector that transforms PocketGo into a full-size shaver when in use. It also boasts a precision trimmer and the ability to be used wet, which are claimed to be unique features for a battery-operated shaver.n