Keeping the razor’s edge

Posted on 10 Sep 2013 by The Manufacturer

Global razor sales are down, experiencing a 6.1% slip over the 12-months to May 2013. Attributed to a rise in beard trends, King of Shaves founder and CEO Will King talks to The Manufacturer about how his company plans to meet changing demands.

60 second interview: Will King, CEO, King of Shaves
60 second interview: Will King, CEO, King of Shaves

Global sales of razors are currently down. Do you feel this will be a long term trend or does it represent a temporary, style-driven shift towards facial hair?

“The cost of buying into the highly priced system razor brand has been high. However, price is not the sole driver. Other key drivers are the fact that sporting a more casual appearance in the workplace, especially in tech businesses & start-ups, has been more the norm,whereas 20 years ago most everyone was clean shaven.

Plus, we’ve had A-List Hollywood celebrities, and the impact this has on men who aspire to their lifestyle can not be underestimated. We then have the fact we’ve been in recession, and it’s been ‘tough out there’ and men have externalised their ‘toughness’ via stubble or a beard. But will this current trend be long term? I doubt it. I think it’s cyclical and will start to rebalance as the world economy recovers and razor brands introduce more high performance products.”

Companies are continuously introducing more niche products such as multi-purpose devices, gels and creams. Do you feel blade manufacturers have suitably judged the demands of market changes?

“The introduction of facial styling and grooming devices by blade companies is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the past, Braun & Philips did electrical grooming whilst we would do wet shaving. However, Proctor & Gamble buying Gillette-owned Braun in 2006 saw companies started cross integrating technology in a hybrid fashion.

We’ve long looked at a hybrid wet razor and trimmer, but the size of the market and costs involved in the tooling and bringing to market outweigh the commercial benefit. Looking to the future, short of the nirvana of an everlasting blade – ceramic has promise, but presents huge manufacturing challenges – all manufacturers are focused on improving comfort, closeness, longevity and user experience.”

Is there a cost factor involved? Razor prices seem to be increasing, with a report last year stating a 99% increase over a three-year period. How does a manufacturer attempt to keep product costs down?

“When you’re producing billions of blades annually as Gillette & Schick Wilkinson Sword do, then there is no reason for the blade cost to keep increasing to the consumer, other than the fact there is more profit for the manufacturers. For us, we were able to launch the Azor relatively affordably, because the design and manufacture of the original handle was clever, and the cartridge was relatively normal.

What we’re launching next is anything but normal, and as our initial production volumes are small, the price will be higher. Whatever we make, needs to be manufactured as efficiently and as simply as possible, so you won’t find our products containing batteries, small electric motors, glowing diodes or all the gadgetry that others have. We have some IP in this space, but haven’t deployed it yet. We need to be efficient in manufacture, to fund retailer discount programmes, which costs the manufacturer dearly.”

How has King of Shaves found the export market? Which areas has the company seen the largest amount of growth in?

“Our largest growth market was the USA until 2012 when our distribution deal with Remington was terminated following a break down in relations. We had around £4m of sales into the USA, which was not there throughout 2013. We will start growing again when we re-launch there with a new partner, which also owns equity in King of Shaves Company. We’ve had steady sales in Australia and New Zealand, are currently growing in Turkey and at some stage, we’ll look at Europe and at the right time, Asia.”