En Guard Gillette! The Future of Shaving Is Evolving… Apple were ‘small’ in 1997, as was King of Shaves.

I flew to Tokyo, Japan last Sunday knowing our investment partnership was going to be announced that day, in order to brief the Board of Directors of our new partner on what our plans are for King of Shaves 2011-20. The shaving business is a long term business to be operating in; success in it is entirely down to how great your products are today, and how much better they will be tomorrow (read years out…) The days are long gone where you could simply add a blade or two to your razor and expect consumers to pay for it – the advent of digital dialogue (and easily communicated ridicule) powered by social media has put a stop to that. These days, in the developed markets of the EU, USA and Asia Pacific, it’s all about ‘Shaving Comfort’ and in the emerging markets, including mainland China and India, its’ about ‘Shaving Cost’.

Yesterday, P&G (owners of Gillette) reported that although sales are up, earnings are down, and this will undoubtedly be a result of hugely increased trade and consumer marketing investments (especially relating to Fusion ProGlide, which will have cost tens of millions of dollars in marketing to ‘kick start’ sales). When you are a small, challenger brand – one that’s zagged into a space via specific product innovation, look, feel like we have, whilst you’d love to have tens of millions of dollars to invest, there simply isn’t that luxury.

But, nor was there at Apple in 1997. At that time, Microsoft looked wholly unassailable, Nokia & Ericsson were the dominant players in mobile phones, the first internet dotcom ‘goldrush’ was just about starting and multi-billion dollar businesses like Google, Facebook were still dreams. But, things started changing fast, companies that have adapted and innovated have grown and are winning out, and those that have stuck to the same old business model have failed.

In 1997, King of Shaves was just about to declare sales of £1.25m and profits of £125,000 (my business partner and I didn’t earn much that year, in order to declare a profit!) In 2010, we’ve just announced one partnership with Kai, and I have my eye on plenty more, so in 2011 we can grow our retail sales and brand awareness from the US$41m we’re at today, to my goal of $100m by 2012-13.

So, as Gillette introduce Gillette Guard, a single blade (!) system razor for emerging markets (with cartridges retailing at 11c) at one end of the market, and Fusion ProGlide, with cartridges at US$4 at the other end – you can see, there’s quite a Delta between their product offers. Uniquely, as (to date) they’ve had pretty much a monopoloy on the market (due to the lack of genuine competition, great product from Schick Wilkinson Sword) they’ve been able to sell billions of razor cartridges on a $3 margin and are betting Gillette Guard will also sell in the billions, on margins (annoyingly for Gillette, I bet) which are way way smaller…

As I’m no fan of monopolies, or cosy duopolies, I aim to insert King of Shaves into this shaving space, with the right products, at the right price, with the right partners, at just the right time. Timing, like luck, is much in life.

Tick…tock…tick…tock…Our time is Coming. Wish us luck.