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P&G Freshens Grooming Segment With Billie Acquisition

Billie brings a new energy to P&G's grooming business — earlier this year, the brand launched a campaign that featured pubic hair.

Procter & Gamble is buying Billie, a women’s shaving and personal-care business.

Billie was first-to-market with the launch in 2018 of five-blade razors, shaving cream and body lotion that were specifically targeted toward women. The brand  — which has a shave-only-if-you-feel-like-it attitude — hit the market years after shaving start-ups for men, including Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, launched, and has attracted attention for its boundary-pushing advertising and campaign against the “pink tax” (the idea that women’s personal-care products routinely cost more than men’s).

Earlier this year, Billie launched a campaign that featured pubic hair. In one of its early campaigns, Billie showed actual body hair being shaved with its razors — a far cry from the glossy-legged advertising of P&G’s Venus brand.

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Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but P&G described the business as “a growing female body-care company.”

P&G’s purchase of Billie comes as its existing grooming business — which includes Venus, Braun, Joy and Gillette — has struggled. On earnings calls, P&G executives frequently talk about societal trends, like men with beards, as a cause of the segment’s declining sales, but the business has also faced competition from companies that provide trendier and less expensive products, with the added benefit of customer information from direct-to-consumer roots.

In the latest quarter, P&G’s grooming segment net sales were down 2 percent, to $1.53 billion.

Similar to men’s grooming upstarts, Billie is a digitally native company that sells its products online via subscription. In a statement, P&G said the brand is especially appealing to Millennial and Gen Z consumers, and that it will continue to be led by cofounders Georgina Gooley and Jason Bravman.

“We’re thrilled by the prospect of joining P&G to bring high-quality products at affordable prices to women around the world,” said Gooley, in a statement. “Their ability to create global household brands that have stood the test of time is a testament to their brand-building expertise; together, we’ll be able to create an even stronger brand for womankind.”

“The impact and consumer connection Georgina and Jason have been able to make with Billie in a short period of time has been remarkable,” said Gary Coombe, chief executive officer of P&G global grooming, in a statement. “The combination of Billie’s high-quality, naturals-focused razors and body-care products, and expertise will allow us to further reach Millennial and Gen Z women through a fresh, bold attitude.”

Reaching new consumers and learning from digitally native start-ups is not new for P&G broadly — the company acquired natural personal-care brand Native in 2017 in part, due to the brand’s success with online advertising. Since the deal, P&G Beauty has “learned a ton when it came to [direct-to-consumer]” and social media marketing, Markus Strobel, president of global skin and personal care at P&G, told WWD in November.

But for the P&G Grooming segment, which is run separately, buying a shaving start-up came years after competitor Unilever did it in 2016 with Dollar Shave Club. Edgewell also recently got in on the action, with the purchase of Harry’s in 2019. Harry’s founded a women’s hair-removal offshoot called Flamingo in 2018, after the launch of Billie.

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