King of Shaves, Azor (Hardware, Software) Market share – Traction, Reaction & Disruption. Compelling reading…

Earlier this week, I looked at our market numbers for March, and year on year. They make compelling reading if, like me, you live and die by how well King of Shaves, Azor is doing against our competitors.

Taking ‘Shaving Software’ first, I was delighted that our software (Alpha gels, oils & serums & new Azor gels) is holding up well in sales, in the face of violent price discounting from our primarly competitors – Gillette, Nivea etc. Sales of £6.4m in a market that’s declined in value by 7.6% to £64.4m is pretty good stuff, with Nivea growing slightly to £6m and Gillette (Series, Fusion, Mach3) declining by a whopping £4m to £36m, a drop of nearly 12%.

Ouch. And this is despite the PHENOMENal (sorry, excuse the pun) market spend behind them. Seems Thierry Henry is better employed playing for Barcelona, rather than somewhat cheesily promoting Gillette. However, as P&G (Gillette) have access to ‘limitless cash’ then I have no doubt that their value based promotions will continue

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(check out the image) – watch out Poundland, at this rate – they’ll be coming to you soon.

Bulldog, the ‘natural’ men’s range grew sales of its shaving gel to c£103,000 at retail (£45,000), but given the increase in distribution to most retailers, I would have expected more. Finally, in these recession ravaged times, good old Colgate has managed to get its value proposition through to consumers, with sales increasing a respectable 8.5% to £2.7m.

Returning to King of Shaves, I would expect that our first integrated press/poster/radio spend during April (6th – 20th) will have a very positive impact, and we’ll be looking at our market numbers closely next month.

Regarding ‘Shaving Hardware’, the numbers make even more interesting reading. This time last year, we had the ‘conventional duopoly’ of Wilkinson-Sword v Gillette, with their Quattro v Fusion/Mach3 platforms. Market spends, especially on the trade promotion side were low.

Well, that’s all changed now. Not only have the combined companies spent anywhere from £15-22m EXTRA on offensive consumer and trade marketing, but they’ve also HALVED the price of their handles for most of the past 10 months. Wilkinson’s Quattro Precision Trimmer (QPT) and Gillette’s Fusion Power (both priced around £8-9.99 at RRP_ have been almost permanently half price. Meanwhile, we’ve been quietly selling our Azor at £4.88, ‘fair at full price’, especially as the handle comes with 3 Endurium cartridges (2 more than both WSQPT & Fusion).

Last month, the 4 weeks to 21st March, Azor shifted approximately 21,000 handles at an average price of £4.63, just 25p less than the full RRP of £4.88) and delivered value of £93,000. During the same period, Wilkinson Sword Quattro delivered sales of £81,000 and Fusion Manual £87,600. Azor was way above sales of Fusion Power (12,000 units), Sensor Excel (8,000 units) and M3 Power (7,000 units).

This despite the Azor being in just 65% distribution (compared to Gillette & Wilkinson’s nigh on 100%) distribution. Top selling handle, was,unsuprisingly, the ‘PHENOM’ version of Gillette’s manual Fusion, with 79,000 units shifted at an average price of £4.34 – 29p less than Azor. Considering that this time last year, Gillette were selling Fusion Manuals at between £6.99-7.99, then this is a more than substantial price drop. I’m personally deslighted that Azor is shifting over 25% of what Gillette’s multi-million pound promoted Phenom is doing.

And this is before our ‘Technology of Bendology’ – ‘Better because it Bends’ poster campaign broke on 6th April. Where replacement cartridges are concerned, the true indicator of success (ie if sales of these are low, it means consumers aren’t shifting to our Azor – clearly not the case) is these. Where our Azor handle is already 5% of the market from 65% distribution (next month it’ll be nearer 8%), our cartridges are selling approximately 33% of what regular Quattro sells monthly. Not bad going, bearing in mind Quattro has been in the market since 2004, and we launched just over 10 months ago.

However, Gillette is still way ahead, with monthly sales of £2.8m for Mach3, followed by Fusion at £2.6m and expensive (£2.50/blade) Gillette Fusion Power at £1.7m. This is amazing, given that Mach3 was launched in the UK in 1998, and despite Gillette’s best efforts to use Federer’s Fusion Forearm to knock it off the top slot, Fusion still isn’t there (although it will eventually overtake it).

What is clear to me is that since the Azor launch, we have done three things. Firstly, we’ve brought a great product to the market, one that Which? magazine voted ‘best buy’ and ‘exceptional value’. Secondly, we’ve got the competition cutting prices violently, as they attempt to protect their turf – by doing what they do best – spending money. Finally, where the consumer is concerned, there has never been a better time to be growing and shaving a beard. Whether you want to buy ‘the most expensive a man can get’ or ‘enjoy the King of Shaves without the Ransom’, you’re spoilt for choice!!!