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Five Years After Harry’s, Women are Getting Cheaper Razors

Modern women's hair removal concepts offer simply designed, affordably priced razors, blades and wax kits.

Five years after introducing its direct-to-consumer shaving concept for men, and one year after women’s shave start-up Billie launched, Harry’s has dived into the market with a hair removal line for women.

The company on Tuesday launched Flamingo, its second brand and the first designed specifically for women. It also is the first brand to come out of Harry’s Labs, the company’s in-house incubator, fueled by a minority investment from Alliance Consumer Growth that was revealed in February.

But Harry’s is used to being the follower, not the trailblazer, having launched its men’s razors in 2013, two years after Dollar Shave Club pioneered the subscription razor model in men’s grooming. The same time lag now applies in women’s: Billie, a shave start-up for women that operates on a subscription model, launched in late 2017 and closed a $6 million seed round of funding in April, after its products sold out multiple times.

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Modernized women’s hair removal brands coming are hitting the market at a time when traditional shave brands — namely two main players, Procter & Gamble’s Gillette and Edgewell’s Schick ­— are struggling. Procter & Gamble’s razor business is down 1.4 percent and Edgewell, which makes Schick, is also down almost 1 percent, according to IRI data tracking the last 52 weeks ending Oct. 12, which includes both women’s and men’s. In the shave cream category, P&G is down 8 percent and Edgewell is down 7 percent. Harry’s, which entered Target doors in 2016, is growing — its men’s business is up 32 percent in razors, and more than 70 percent in cartridge refills.

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“This is a very personal category for women and I think the conversation around it is shifting,” said Cecilia Gates, founder and creative director of Gates Creative. “The marketing norms presented to women over the past 100 years about shaving have been about embarrassment or wanting to be sexier. Shaving has always been a masculine category, and with the women’s [segment], [marketers] have just done the whole, ‘Let’s make it pink,’ thing.”

That kind of marketing won’t fly with young female consumers, who are buying fewer razors and other hair removal items than older generations.

“We’re seeing a generational shift in attitudes toward hair removal,” said Olivia Guinaugh, an analyst at Mintel. The firm’s research shows that 33 percent of current 18- to 34-year-olds shave “when they want to” versus “when they have to.” “[Millennials and Gen Z consumers] are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to see it as acceptable to have visible [body] hair, even a sign of female empowerment.”

Earlier this year, Billie launched an ad campaign featuring female body hair — the first of its kind in the women’s shave category. “We wanted to show that removing body hair is a choice, not an expectation,” said Georgina Gooley, founder of Billie. “When you’re showing a product demonstration, showing women with already shaved, glossy legs seems crazy. I don’t appreciate anyone — especially not a brand — telling me I should look a certain way.”

The new wave of women’s hair removal brands are similar in pricing and distribution strategy to their male-oriented predecessors, Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, but they offer products designed specifically for women.

Flamingo focuses on hair removal and body care for women, carrying an assortment of simply designed razors, blades, wax kits, shave cream and body lotion. True to Harry’s affordable ethos, razors are priced at $9 each, wax kits at $10, and a four-pack of retail cartridges is also $9, significantly cheaper than similar women’s hair removal items sold in mass and drug doors — for instance, WWD found that a four-pack of Gillette Venus Extra Smooth razor cartridges was priced at $17.97 at this week. Billie’s subscription service is also priced affordably — $9 for razors and $9 for a pack of four refill cartridges. Billie also sells shave cream, $8; body wash, $9, and body lotion, $12.

Before launching Flamingo, Harry’s found that 1 million of its customers were women — sparking the idea to actually create a line with female-oriented products.

“Even before launching Harry’s, in the very early days there was a serious conversation about whether Harry’s should be a unisex brand,” said Allie Melnick, general manager of Flamingo at Harry’s Labs. “It seems silly now because we very quickly learned there’s real differences in body hair and how women think of it.”

Research done by Flamingo found that 40 percent of women are using at-home wax kits — a surprising percentage, given that the mass market wax kits are typically relegated to the darker corners of the drugstore.

Flamingo’s at-home wax kits come with clear instruction manuals, the web site is outfitted with an instruction guide and customer service reps are trained on how to use them. The point of all this, said Melnick, is to make the customer feel like she “has a friend in the room,” and to normalize the conversation around hair removal.

“There’s no real conversation around women’s shaving,” said Melnick, who said Flamingo will rely on digital and word-of-mouth marketing. “Flamingo speaks to today’s woman and can have a real honest conversation around the category and take it out of the shadows. I think there’s a real opportunity for women to support a brand that feels like it speaks to you, and is well-informed and thoughtful.”