NEW YORK — London-based King of Shaves will go on the offensive in the U.S. this fall — and Jason Kidd of the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets will be leading the charge.

King of Shaves signed the 30-year-old, soon-to-be free agent guard to a two-year contract that sources estimate to be a $2 million deal. The endorsement is the linchpin of a marketing plan designed to boost the company’s presence in the U.S. and to coincide with a strategy to quadruple the brand’s U.S. distribution, which is currently at 1,500 doors, by year-end. The planned U.S. expansion reflects executives’ hopes of turning King of Shaves into a 13,000-door, $9 million retail operation here by 2005. Currently, King of Shaves generates $2 million at retail in the U.S.

The Kidd campaign will hit the market in June with teaser visuals appearing in-store at Duane Reade — one of King of Shaves’ U.S. retailers — as well as other public places in the New York metro area. The bulk of the effort, however, will be a national print ad campaign featuring Kidd, which breaks in men’s magazines in September. Several preliminary ad visuals feature Kidd with his wife, Joumana, where the couple appears to be shaving one another. The overall print advertising effort and Kidd endorsement is estimated to cost the company between $3 million and $4 million.

As part of a plan to ramp up King of Shaves’ U.S. distribution, the brand’s founder, Will King, is targeting the U.S.’s four largest drugstore chains: Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Eckerd. King of Shaves came to the U.S. three years ago and currently is carried in Duane Reade, Target and independent beauty retailers.

King notes that the brand, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, generates $15 million in the U.K. The brand markets 32 shaving and skin care products there, for men and women. In the U.S., however, only four King of Shaves items are in stores, but an additional four — including two women’s shaving products — are slated to launch in September.

In addition to growing the business in the U.S., King wants to continue to offer men alternative formulations to the gels and foams found at U.S. mass retail. Whereas companies like Gillette have made product advancements with the razor, most notably with the Mach-3 triple-bladed razor, King contends that "we’ve seen no change for 20 years in software," or within the gel, foam and pre- and post-shave categories.Outside the U.S. and U.K., King of Shaves is distributed to Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Mexico. The brand’s parent company, Knowledge and Merchandising Inc., also either distributes or holds licenses for Ted Baker London, Fish hair care and Speedo hair, body and skin care in various international markets. KMI generated revenues of nearly $43.2 million last year, according to King.

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