By  on August 6, 2007

NEW YORK — The best a man can get just got better.

Men’s grooming brand The Art of Shaving has formed a first-time partnership with razor giant Gillette to launch the Fusion Chrome Collection, a premium assortment of razors and shaving instruments that will combine Gillette’s blade expertise with The Art of Shaving’s high-end craftsmanship.

The collaboration marks the first co-branded collection for the mass market manufacturer and upscale retailer. The move also introduces shaving instruments to the premium grooming business. The collection consists of two razors—a manual and powered version featuring a built-in spotlight—a coordinating shaving brush and matching shaving stands, all in polished chrome. The luxury assortment will hit The Art of Shaving boutiques and its retail partners on Oct. 1. Retail price points are $125 for the manual razor, $150 for the power razor, $75 for the brush and $100 for a shaving stand.

“We think this is going to ignite the whole premium razor category,” said The Art of Shaving president and CEO, Eric Malka, who has been fitting luxury razor handles to Gillette’s blades at the firm’s retail locations since its inception in 1996. “We expect this to expand sales and increase our razor business six to seven times where it is today.”

Averaging $1,400 sales per square foot at newer boutiques, The Art of Shaving expects to reach $35 million in retail sales by the end of 2007, according to Malka. The company’s joint venture with Gillette, which commands about 72 percent of the world’s blade market, is expected to increase that figure. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to leverage Gillette’s expertise in the razor category and their market share all over the world, and it’s a great way for Gillette to move into the premium consumer space,” Malka said.

This collaboration with Gillette is the latest in a series of aggressive growth strategies by the 10-year-old grooming retailer. The Art of Shaving tapped into the women’s market earlier this summer—providing premium shaving solutions for legs and bikini areas—and the company continues to grow its retail presence. By the end of September the firm will be operating 26 stand-alone locations and Malka said an additional 15 boutiques are scheduled to open in 2008, followed by another 15 in 2009. The Art of Shaving brand is carried in about 860 doors worldwide, including U.S. retail counters at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Barneys New York. The company’s next move? Stand-alone boutiques in Moscow and London.

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