Raft of men's grooming products hit market

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The men's personal-care market is coming of age. The multiple categories are broadening from the more staid men's deodorants, haircare and shaving products to include body sprays and washes and facial lotions.

Just the category for deodorants, lotions (cologne, facial creams) and body sprays reached $1.26 billion, up 2%, in 2003, according to Information Resources. Hidden in that slow growth were strong numbers from the new category extenders.

Axe, one of those extenders, had sales of $50.9 million, up from $13 million, reports IRI. In its second year, Beiersdorf's Nivea for Men line of scrubs, moisturizers and shaving cream hit $20 million, up 11.6%. Suave for Men, whose 2003 launch was the first men's mass-market haircare line, hit $11.6 million in sales.

body washes gain

Procter & Gamble Co.'s Old Spice products were up 8.6%to $167.1 million, which included $11.7 million in first-time sales of its new line of body washes. Old Spice body washes did not hurt sales of Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s existing Softsoap for Men. Sales for Softsoap registered $6.3 million in 2003, up 2.1%.

Several retail executives expect Unilever to shake up the emerging body-wash sector by introducing Axe body wash to the U.S. market by next year.

Ms. Swanson and Banc of America Securities analyst Bill Steele see Gillette's entry this spring of Gillette Complete Skin Care as a big step toward fueling category growth. The product carries a guarantee promising healthier-looking skin in 14 days, a pitch similar to lines P&G has used on such female-positioned brands as Olay, providing a "stamp of approval," Mr. Steele says.

Gillette's entry could threaten Nivea for Men, but that brand's marketing manager, Joe Venezia, believes Gillette will appeal to older men already using its products. Nivea is after younger men, he says. He, too, sees lots of room for growth: "We haven't scratched the surface of men's skincare."

In a sense, the men's care category is caught in an awkward life cycle: Is the target market the macho guy or the metrosexual? Marketers are all over the map on that one.

"We don't even really use [metrosexual] around here anymore," says Allison Harmon, marketing communications manager for Unilever Home and Personal Care, marketer of Axe and Suave for Men haircare and personal-wash products. "Both [Axe and Suave for Men] are focused more widely than that."

"The behavior is not going away," Cheryl Swanson, president of trend-tracker Toniq, says of growing male interest in grooming. "Guys say, `I don't want to be called names just because I want to look good."

L'Oreal macho streak

Marketers in the small but fast-growing men's shampoo and conditioner market are clearly trying to position products as macho. L'Oreal trailed Suave into the men's haircare segment late last year with Vive for Men. Ads were staged in a men's locker room, imply the products keep men's balding heads from looking like basketballs.

"Most men aren't ready to walk up to a department store counter and ask about eye cream," Brian Robinson, president of Shiseido's Zirh International, marketer of the prestige Zirh Skin Nutrition for men, said in a presentation last fall.

Mr. Robinson welcomes competition from traditional men's brands like Gillette but believes gender crossovers like L'Oreal and Nivea into men's territory could damage the image of men's personal care. He's happy Sarah Jessica Parker uses Zirh, but he doesn't like to spread that news around.