In case the continuing popularity of the TV show "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" and the rise of the "metrosexual" male hasn't convinced you, take our word for it: The boom in men's personal care products is here to stay. Men of the 21st century have decided they want to look good, smell good and feel good, and they're buying creams, lotions, deodorants and moisturizers to help achieve this goal. And what's more, they're buying natural. But if we can't convince you, maybe some industry professionals can.
"Over the past few years, there has been a real cultural change in our society, thanks to shows like "Queer Eye" and the metrosexual trend," said Tara Estabrook, consultant and U.S. sales manager for Logona, a German company with a full line of men's personal care products. "Men and the women or men that they spend time with have begun getting the message that taking care of your grooming and using personal care products isn't just acceptable, but it's preferable. A lot of men who usually wouldn't care about grooming are really beginning to see that. I think the culture is really changing."
Curt Valva, general manager of Tampa, Fla.-based Aubrey Organics, agrees. "It's OK for men these days to pamper themselves and try to look a little bit nicer," he said. "They want to try to keep that youthful glow. It's OK to do that now, whereas 20 or 25 years ago it really wasn't. Whether it's influences we see from mass media, television or magazines, or just a little more confidence in the way one looks, it's become acceptable."
Sales figures collected by San Francisco-based market research firm SPINS back up manufacturers' claims. According to SPINS, sales of men's deodorants in natural foods stores increased 27.2 percent last year, men's skin care products went up 21.1 percent and men's hair products rose 20.2 percent. Sales of men's soap and bath preparations grew 44.2 percent, while men's body-care kits, sets and travel packs went up a whopping 248 percent. All in all, sales of men's personal care products rose 26 percent in the last year, making it an undeniable growth category.
As a result, many companies previously focused on the women's side of the market have begun targeting the men's market. Aubrey Organics recently expanded its Men's Stock line of personal care products (including aftershave, moisturizers and body washes), and Logona—though it has been marketing men's products for 15 years—repackaged its entire men's line last year. Kiss My Face has also expanded its men's line. Some companies' personal care product lines, such as Herban Cowboy and the Pacific Shaving Co.'s, are wholly directed at the male consumer.
In tandem with this growing desire on the part of men to look good, Valva claims, there's also been a growing public knowledge of the potentially harmful chemicals that can be found in conventional bodycare products. "Men—and consumers in general—have become aware that there are a lot of nasty things out there in the environment," he said. "Whether they be chemicals, nasty pesticides, increases in different illnesses, men are becoming more educated. They want to live longer and healthier lives, and they're making changes, whether it's in their diet or the things they're putting on their face and their skin. They want what's not only better for their body, but also what's better for the environment."
Selling men's personal care products can be complicated. For one thing, in many cases, it's not men who are buying them. "The majority of men's products are bought by women for men," Valva said. "The overwhelming majority. Women 'get' the products—they understand the scrubs, the moisturizers, the facial cleansers. [So] you have to tell the women that these products are the same products [they've] been using for years; we've just tweaked the formula to serve the man's face, to help the beard or exfoliate the skin, so that a man will get a better shave. At the same time, you have to convey that message to the men, without seeming too feminine. You need to talk about the benefits, how it's going to keep them looking younger, how it's not going to be too complicated."
Another effective way for stores to sell these products is cross-merchandising, Estabrook said. "If you have organic carrots on sale, you should put something with carrot cream in it next to it. If you have a personal care product with fruit elements, you can put it with the fruit in the produce section."
These efforts will pay off, both Valva and Estabrook claim. Citing Kent Spalding, principle at The Touch Agency, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based consumer and trade marketing firm with a focus on the naturals industry, Estabrook said that fewer than 10 percent of natural foods shoppers also purchase personal care products. She recommends putting HABA "front and center so that the people who come in for their produce are also aware of the body-care items—because those items are the high-margin items. I mean, how many bags of chips do you have to sell to get the profit on one bottle of shampoo?"
Valva predicts the men's personal care category will continue to grow in future years. "I know it will never be as large as the women's segment of the personal care market, but it is a growing segment," he said. "I do think you're going to start seeing the anti-aging area growing in the men's products aisle. Eye cream, antiwrinkle creams, even hair products. A lot of us, as we get older, get thinning hair, and we want to find something that will help to slow that down or to thicken up what we currently have. We're all vain, us guys, when it comes down to it."
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Tyler Wilcox is a Longmont, Colo.-based freelance writer.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 6/p. 60, 62