Last updated: January 24, 2014 1:54 pm

Movember mania trims P&G razor sales

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Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette disposable razors are displayed at a supermarket in New York, US©Bloomberg

The craze of growing moustaches to raise awareness of prostate cancer in November has hit sales of Gillette razors, exacerbating a rising year-round threat from stubble and hipster beards.

Procter & Gamble, Gillette’s owner, said the Movember movement, which began in 2003 in Australia, had magnified a deeper-seated trend that is more troubling to razor makers: a decline in facial shaving.

In the final quarter of last year the shaving market in the developed world shrank, said Jon Moeller, chief financial officer at P&G, which acquired Gillette for $57bn in a blockbuster deal in 2005.

The contraction reflected big changes in male habits. Three-day stubble and bushy Brooklyn beards are growing in popularity, and cash-strapped consumers are balking at the perceived high cost of razors such as Gillette’s top-of-the-line Fusion brand.

Mr Moeller said some consumers were switching from premium products with replaceable blade cartridges – a Gillette speciality – to cheaper disposable razors, which are synonymous with the French brand Bic.

Nicole Tyrimou, analyst at Euromonitor, said the profusion of facial hair reflected more relaxed dress codes in some offices, as well as high unemployment in southern Europe, which left jobless men with less reason to shave.

She said that the trendiness of facial hair in Europe had risen notably last year. “If you look at magazines in western Europe all the male models have beards or stubble.”

As male faces get hairier, other parts of the body are becoming less hirsute. Mr Moeller said: “While the incidence of facial shaving is somewhat down, the incidence of body shaving is up, and we can take advantage of that and plan to do that as well.”

P&G has been promoting “manscaping” and Gillette filed the trademark “Gillette Body” last year.

In the three months to December 31 sales in P&G’s grooming business, which includes Gillette, were flat, but excluding the impact of currency movements sales rose 3 per cent from a year ago.

Euromonitor forecasts that the US male shaving market will expand by 1.7 per cent to $2.7bn this year while the UK market will shrink by 0.8 per cent to $670m.

P&G’s comments on shaving came as the company, whose other brands include Pampers nappies and Crest toothpaste, posted flat revenues of $22bn and a 15 per cent drop in profits, which was largely explained by the one-off boost it got from buying out a joint venture last year.

P&G rehired AG Lafley last May as chief executive to correct errors and boost the group’s sluggish financial performance.

He said in a statement: “We’re on track to deliver our objectives of 3 to 4 per cent organic sales growth and 5 to 7 per cent core [earnings per share] growth for the fiscal year.”

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