Razor rivals in bloody battle

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The four-bladed Schick Quattro took a nick out of Gillette Co.'s market share in its first two weeks on the market, leading some observers to believe the brand could draw significant blood from its dominant rival.

For the four weeks ended Oct. 5, Schick's non-disposable razor and blade sales surged 38.8% compared to the year-ago period, and its market share rose 3.1 points to 11.1% of the $900 million category, according to figures from VNU's ACNielsen Corp. reported by Banc of America Securities. Gillette's sales fell 4% during that time frame and its lofty share declined 3.1 points to 83.4%.

It was the biggest monthly share swing in the category in several years and even more striking given that Quattro's official launch date was Sept. 22, covering only half the period. It's also a far bigger impact on the category than the launch of the Schick Intuition women's razor had this spring, according to the ACNielsen, when Schick actually lost 0.8 share points during its first month of distribution. Schick is a unit of Eveready Holdings

"This doesn't include Wal-Mart or club stores or about half the category, but it's still not a good sign for Gillette," said Joe Altobello, analyst with CIBC World Markets. "I'm a little surprised by the magnitude of the share shift. I thought [Quattro] would take some meaningful share, but that it would take some time."


Still, he cautioned that the bigger test could come several weeks or months from now when men decide whether to buy replacement blades.

"Repeat purchase is awfully important," Banc of America Securities analyst Bill Steele said. "It's too early to tell if it's going to be a world-beating product that takes significant share away from Gillette."

"We're very pleased with the results so far and we believe Quattro is going to be a success," said Michelle Stearns, group brand director for Schick men's shaving systems. She attributes success in the early going to strong retailer support, since advertising didn't break until Sept. 30. "We've also had an amazing amount of media coverage, which has helped," she said.

Tempering Schick's gains with Quattro, the brand has been losing share to Gillette's Sensor 3 disposable launch, which helped push Gillette's share up 3.4% to 44.6% and Schick's down 2.4 points to 22.6% in the four weeks ended Oct. 5 in the smaller, lower-margin $400 million disposable market.

Early initial success also raises the stakes in the courtroom battle between the companies. A U.S. District Court in Boston is to begin a three-day hearing Nov. 5 on Gillette's motion for a preliminary injunction in its patent-infringement lawsuit against Schick, which could pull Quattro off store shelves. In a counterclaim, Schick contends Gillette's patent should be voided because it was improperly filed.

No hearing has been set yet in Schick's separate false-advertising suit seeking to stop Gillette from using its longtime "The Best a Man Can Get" slogan. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles Gillette. Schick's shop is WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York.

Spokespeople for Gillette and Energizer declined to comment on the sales results or litigation, pending earnings reports scheduled in the next two weeks.

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