Male Vanity Goes Thrifty: 'Mansome' Men Are Watching Their Wallets, Too

Shaving Index
Shaving Index

First came the era of the metrosexual man. Nearly a decade later, now that it has become de rigeur for men to primp, exfoliate and emulsify, he has evolved into something new: the "mansome" man -- and the retail industry has been paying attention.

As well it should: The market for men's toiletries in the U.S. is booming. Spending has increased by $222 million since 2006 to $2.4 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Mintel Market Research. And the men's facial skincare market, which includes shaving products, saw revenue rise 11% in 2011, according to The NPD Group, a market research firm.

Yet guys are also still economical about how they purchase grooming products.

Yes, men are looking to get a competitive edge in the workplace by investing more in toiletries, according to Mintel, but instead of visiting professionals, they're buying supplies for at-home grooming routines. As a result, Mintel expects sales of men's toiletries to keep growing by some 5% a year through 2016.

Sales of shaving lotion, cologne, talc and gift sets grew by $14 million from 2010 to 2011, according to Mintel, bolstered by heavy marketing by Axe and Old Spice. The shaving cream/gel segment saw a 3.7% growth from 2010 to 2011; Gillette brands are the most popular, with Edge and Barbasol running a close second and third.

Trimming the Price of Grooming

Michael Dubin, noticed these trends, and founded in July 2011 to fight against the rising prices.

"Our faces haven't evolved in thousands of years," said Dubin, 33. "Doesn't mean we should have to shave with a broadsword, but 'Big Shave' keeps telling us we need more expensive equipment. Shaving should be simple. Brand name razor companies who are investing billions in R&D and advertising are missing the point."

DollarShaveClub makes it simple. Pick one of its three inexpensive blade varieties, and they'll give you a handle and mail you blade refills monthly. Think Netflix, but sharper.

"People are responding to our proposition because they realize they don't need to pay for all of that anymore," Dubin said. "We're targeting anyone who shaves, is fed up with overpaying on brand name razors and hates spending 20 minutes going out of their way to buy them in the store."

18- to 34-year-olds are the key demographic for DollarShave, but they're hardly its only target, Dubin said.

The company relaunched its brand in March with a video he describes as "fun and irreverent."

"With the video, people always tend to remember things that are funny and I wanted a unique video to showcase the brand we were working to create," he said.

Tapping Into Male Indulgence: Discovery Retail

This spring, Birchbox, a subscription service that offers a wide selection of sample-size toiletries, expanded with a service for men, aiming to tap into their growing desire for for deluxe grooming products, but at affordable prices.

Its men's offerings sold out in three days, said Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp.

"It's inherently social for women -- women who are bringing their boxes together and hanging out," Beauchamp said, describing women who make Birchbox Youtubes videos or take "unboxing" Instagram shots with their new products.

"We're very interested in seeing how this translates to men," she said. "They might not be as social about sharing 'this great new pomade.' "

But Mintel reports the new crop of male consumers between 18 and 34 are getting into shaving and grooming products, using as many as five or more toiletries regularly -- compared to their older counterparts who use between two and four. Further, men between 25 and 34 are much more likely to buy products formulted for sensitive-skin -- reflecting a more discerning taste for quality and an interest in more refined products.

"The box is a surprise -- making it delightful, making it about discovery," Beauchamp said. "It's discovery retail, where you connect with products and retail that you may not have found. or products that you wouldn't tend toward."

The idea is to have men explore possible upgrades in new products or categories, where Birchbox can control "the first catch or touch of a brand."

"We focus on prestige that's always been a part of our women's brand -- products that are not sold in drug stores but that are sold in department stores or specialty stores and boutiques," Beauchamp said. "Think of it as easy upgrade."

That's catching on with men.

"We did hear from a lot of our brands that ... the men's categories are growing," Beauchamp said. "Prestige seems to be taking off."

Retailers are taking note, too. Ulta began opening men's grooming boutiques within its stores last summer featuring P&G's The Art of Shaving line, according to Reuters. CVS has also conceived of its Beauty360 program, which features services like facials for men buying Jack Black grooming and shaving products, according to Drug Store News.