Men’s proclivity for preening

The male grooming market has not grown as quickly as some expected, but with a little pandering to ‘manly’ sensibilities, it looks set for expansion

A bewildering array of toiletries and grooming products is targeted at men nowadays, from moisturisers and facial scrubs to exfoliant and cooling balms. The men’s grooming market may be in its infancy, but there is a wealth of choice and a high rate of product development. However, the market has yet to achieve the high levels of growth predicted during the men’s magazine boom of the Nineties.

According to the latest report by market research company Key Note, there is still great potential for growth in the male grooming market. The company claims to have pinpointed the reasons why sales have so far failed to live up to expectations. One of the principal problems has been how to package and market grooming products in a way that reassures men they are not relinquishing their masculinity by purchasing them.

This has been borne out by the number of projects and products that have stalled not long after launch. Lever Fabergé closed its two Lynx-branded men’s hair salons within 14 months of introducing them in 2000. The company has also stopped producing Lynx shampoo, and the future of the Lynx skincare range is in doubt after it was delisted by several major retailers earlier this summer (MW July 17). In 2001, Boots abandoned its standalone men’s shops, Boots Men, which had opened in Bristol and Edinburgh the previous year.

Demographic factors have played a part in the sluggish development of the market, which is highly dependent on consumers under the age of 35. The influential 25- to 34-year-old age group, whose members are young enough to be relaxed about spending money on their appearance and old enough to have the disposable income to do so, has actually shrunk by 17.8 per cent over the past five years. The older age groups are growing fastest, and as older people tend to be more conservative in their grooming habits, they are less susceptible to persuasion that they should try to improve their appearance or personal hygiene with new products.

Despite these apparent setbacks, the total market for men’s toiletries and fragrances is growing steadily, reaching £562m in 2002. The toiletries sector grew by 17 per cent between 1998 and 2002 and sales of fragrances went up by 11 per cent over the same period.

Marketers’ persistence in telling men they need grooming products is beginning to pay off: males are increasingly willing to shop for their own toiletries, or at least to choose the types of products they use. However, they tend to be less concerned about which brand they use – heavy discounting by manufacturers keen to gain a foothold in the market has led to brand-switching by male consumers.

Key Note’s report shows that 26 per cent of men say they prefer male-only products to unisex ones and nearly one in four men is unwilling to share their toiletries with others in their household. This indicates that interest in male grooming is growing and that grooming is becoming a more “important” habit for those practising it.

Products such as deodorants, shampoos and shower gels continue to sell well, and male hair-styling products are becoming increasingly important. The fastest-growing segment of the male toiletries market is skincare, although premium products are still much less important than they are in the women’s skincare market. The perception that “real men don’t use moisturiser” appears to be obsolescent, with nearly one in four men having used such products last year. Shaving preparations are now used by nearly 70 per cent of men.

Looking to the future, the men’s toiletries and fragrances market is likely to continue growing. Key Note forecasts that the market will be worth about £632m in 2007. However, demographic trends would suggest mixed fortunes as the size of the 25- to 34-year-old age group continues to decline and the 45- to 64-year-old group grows. There is some interest in grooming products among older men, however, and as today’s 25- to 34-year-olds get used to using such products, it is likely to become a lifelong habit. Yet men are unlikely to be persuaded that grooming is a leisure activity in its own right, as women have been.

Marketers, helped by high-profile users of male grooming products – footballer David Beckham, for instance – are gradually removing the stigma attached to these products, using renaming exercises (“concealer” becomes “camouflage stick” when men are using it) and reassuring advertising straplines, such as Nivea for Men’s “Looking after your skin doesn’t mean you don’t know the offside rule”.

Although men are more likely than they were to buy their own grooming products, the retail environment still needs work. Retailers can support the market by working to make sales areas, which are currently female-dominated, more male-friendly. Making sure products are available on the shelves, and located in a convenient place so that male shoppers can make their purchases and leave as quickly as possible, is one step retailers should consider.

The conclusion is that men are looking for grooming products that do an efficient job with the minimum effort. Manufacturers and marketers that have focused on the functional benefits of grooming products have seen the most success so far and this is a trend that is likely to continue for some time.

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