The men’s grooming and fragrance market is flexing its muscles in Europe, and a growing number of brands are taking interest.
This story first appeared in the June 18, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Over the next few months alone, major players such as Chanel, Guerlain, Dolce & Gabbana, Davidoff and Marc Jacobs are introducing new masculine scents. Nuxe is among the brands recently launching treatment lines for men, while others like Gillette are bulking up such skin care offerings.
Gone are the days when a guy furtively applied his girlfriend’s face cream behind closed doors. Today, European men are bolder, venturing in greater number to shop for their own brands of beauty—either in-store or online. They’re not just snapping up the basics, either, but buying and using more sophisticated treatment offers.
“We’re reaching what we’d call a tipping point,” says Jean-Jacques Lebel, executive vice president and managing director of L’Oréal’s Consumer Products division. “Things are really happening in a big way. There’s a point where there is a critical mass of men and word of mouth, and it’s becoming absolutely acceptable for men to use men’s products. It is now.”
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There’s a tradition of men in Europe (especially “Latin” Europe, such as France, Italy and Spain) wearing fragrance and, in some markets, like the U.K., ingrained grooming rituals.
“European men have a long-established reputation for appearance consciousness,” says Mark Whalley, Datamonitor consumer analyst. “Although this may be driven partially by cliché…evidence suggests that it has some basis in reality. Interestingly, however, at the same time, there is a certain degree of self-satisfaction and carefree-ness about many European males’ attitudes and behaviors over their appearance. These seeming contradictions suggest that there remains a tension between feminized and traditional male values over appearance, but also that attitude-behavior gaps exist that suggest possible openings for industry players to further exploit men’s appearance-management concerns.”
The men’s grooming category in Europe is already sizeable. Euromonitor reports it pulled in $8.47 billion in retail sales last year in Western Europe, up 1.9 percent versus 2008. Lebel estimates the business has developed by 50 percent in five years.
“It’s probably the fastest growing of most markets where we operate,” says Lebel.
These days, it is impossible to make vast generalizations about men’s beauty buying habits across Europe. “Cultural barriers in certain European countries are lower, leading to a wider spread and more open [acceptance] of appearanceconscious attitudes and behaviors among men,” says Datamonitor’s Whalley.
In a consumer survey the tracking firm conducted in Europe in April and May 2009, men were asked about the importance of looking their best in day-today life. Responses varied from country to country, with the percentage of guys answering “important” or “very important” coming in at 35 percent for Sweden, 39 percent for France, 40 percent for the U.K. and—topping the list—63 percent for Russia. The total global average was 53 percent for men versus 70 percent for women who were posed the same query.
Beiersdorf ’s Nivea for Men is another skin care brand notching up strong gains in Europe.
“Face care is growing by more than 10 percent,” says Inken Hollmann-Peters, international vice president for brand marketing at Beiersdorf, adding the segment is luring new (including older) consumers.
Overall, the men’s grooming category’s product development largely echoes the evolution of the women’s treatment market—which became increasingly segmented—years ago. Executives note that, as of two to five years ago, there have been fewer barriers to entry.
“In the past, some men probably thought if they use a face cream, they wouldn’t come across as very masculine,” says Hollmann-Peters, who explains that today, men equate looking good with being more successful in life. “So they’re daring even more to take care of themselves.”
She adds Beiersdorf finds consumers in the U.S. (where the company has not yet entered men’s categories such as hair care or deodorant) are not as sophisticated, in terms of their usage of care products, as some of their Western European counterparts.
“Whereas in France or the U.K. or Germany, antiage is much stronger,” says Hollmann-Peters.
Still, among marketers’ greatest hurdles is getting European men to be even more adventuresome in the types of products they use. There have been some breakthroughs of late, with certain relatively sophisticated offerings being strong sellers in Europe. L’Oréal Paris’ Men Expert Eye Roll-On, billed as a cooling product to fight wrinkles and under-eye bags, for instance, “is a great success,” says Lebel. “We’re concentrating on skin care—[value-added] skin care—because we think that’s where we can offer an edge.”
There’s also a burgeoning men’s deodorant business in Europe. Men Expert is introducing a short line of roll-ons and sprays with a 48-hour antiperspirant claim in parts of Western Europe.
“It’s extremely promising,” says Lebel.
Meanwhile, this spring, Beiersdorf launched its hightech Silver Protect line for men, whose products contain an antibacterial formula with silver molecules, to “excellent” results, says Hollmann-Peters.
Companies are focusing on aftershaves, as well. L’Oréal has a few products in the category, which it’s leveraging as an extension of its skin care strength. Other personal care categories, such as shower products, are evolving, too. Beiersdorf last year introduced a three-in-one item, called Active 3, which the company claims to be the first in the segment with a triple benefit, including shave prep to facilitate body grooming.
While mass skin care continues its growth trajectory,the prestige treatment market has proven more challenging in Europe.
Philippe Benacin, chairman and chief executive officer of Inter Parfums SA, estimates the selective skin care market remains tiny and has been flat for a few years now.
Inter Parfums purchased high-end men’s skin care brand Nickel in 2004. At the time, the prestige grooming segment for males was expected to grow at plus-15 or 20 percent annually, says Benacin. “We thought it would become something consistent, like 10 percent or 20 percent of the whole size of the skin care market. But actually, it has maybe stayed at 1 percent to 3 percent,” he explains.
Part of the sector’s steep competition is due to the lure of lower price points of skin care for men in channels such as pharmacies and grocery stores.
“Men probably are not ready to spend as much for skin care as women are,” says Benacin. “On top of it, you have many newcomers, which makes it complicated to maintain market share at 7 or 8 or 10 [percent].”
Cultural differences account for the anemic sales, too. “Unlike in Asia—a major market where skin care is completely embedded in the male routine of beauty— Europe stops at shaving,” says Véronique Gabai-Pinksy, global brand president for Aramis and Designer Fragrances, BeautyBank and IdeaBank at the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “The challenge for us is to start educating the male consumer on how you can enhance the shaving experience and therefore compliment it with an element of treatment.”
In Europe, Lauder’s Lab Series men’s skin care brand rings up most of its sales in the shaving category, while treatment is a far second. (That differs from the U.S., where the brand’s two most important categories are shaving and treatment. “Cleansing is a little less embedded in the culture or the habits,” Gabai-Pinsky says. “Body or hair care is not something that men necessarily buy in prestige.”)
The good news from Europe is that Lab Series is clocking double-digit gains. A recent hit is Lab Series’ Max LS antiaging product. In May in Spain’s El Corte Inglés, for instance, it was the department store’s number-one stockkeeping unit in men’s skin care. Gabai-Pinsky chalks its success up to the product’s high-performance, oneproduct- does-all nature and single message.
She says Lauder is working on developing a product with benefits embedded in the shaving experience. Gabai- Pinsky notes that, when there’s a product giving a variety of benefits and immediate results, “the European [male] consumer starts acting a little bit like the Asian consumer, and goes for it.”
That being said, there can be vast differences in shopping patterns from one European country—or even zone—to the next.
“It’s much easier for me to develop my grooming and skin care business in continental Europe than it is in Russia, for example,” says Gabai-Pinsky. “There’s very little knowledge, understanding or desire for this type of product in emerging Europe.”
The men’s fragrance front appears somewhat brighter, with marketers reporting ample room for gains. Last year, its estimated size in Europe was $5.1 billion (with $3.06 billion generated from premium scents, the remainder from mass)—just less than half the estimated $10.1 billion for the European women’s scent business, according to Datamonitor. The tracking firm expects the male segment to outpace the female category, with average yearly gains of 2.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively, through 2014.
The European men’s prestige fragrance market has been flat on average over the last five years, estimates Benacin, who adds the European prestige women’s fragrance market has been flat, as well.
“The market environment continues to be tough around the world and in Europe,” says Patrice Louvet, president of the P&G Global Prestige Products Division.
Executives note increased competition for prestige fragrances from other categories, such as technology, with the advent of iPhones, for instance.
“The share of voice is very expensive—much more than in the past,” says Benacin. “So it’s more complicated to be seen.”
Meanwhile, strong trends in male prestige fragrance shopping keep bubbling up.
“Consumers gravitate to brands they know and trust, but well-rounded new propositions still generate significant momentum,” says Louvet. He highlights the continued success of P&G’s classic lines, such as Hugo Boss Bottled, Hugo Man and Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme. And when it comes to introductions over the past year and a half, Hugo Element, D&G’s The One for Men, Gucci by Gucci Pour Homme and Lacoste Challenge boast top 10 to top 20 positions in most markets.
Some underline the importance of fragrance brands returning to their historic roots. Last fall, Aramis launched the Aramis Gentleman’s Collection, which culls the brand’s past scents. It has helped Aramis—whose overall business has grown by double digits in Europe this year—to remain in Europe’s top 20. In the U.K., it ranks in the top five and in Germany’s top 15, according to Gabai-Pinsky.
A major growth driver for the prestige fragrance category will be the BRIC markets, or Brazil, Russia, India and China, as its consumers become more sophisticated beauty product users. “We also believe that there is significant potential to further increase the total size of fragrance categories in the more developed markets by completing offerings across price tiers and product categories and forms,” says Louvet.
Executives point to a stronger emphasis on the men’s prestige fragrance category, with a surge in the number of groups, plus the amount of money and creativity (in terms of product development and marketing), flooding the men’s segment in Europe.
“[Companies] are investing as much as they used to invest in the women’s sector for the launches,” says Eric Henry, Beauté Prestige International’s chief operating officer, speaking of both fragrance and grooming. “Now, if you look at media, for instance, they are spending as much as they did for women’s launches.”
In Europe, the French, German, U.K., Spanish and Italian markets generate almost 70 percent of all men’s sales, estimates Henry.
Whether skin care or fragrance, successfully engaging men involves a different formula than for women. Simplicity, executives unanimously agree, is key.
“You shouldn’t oversophisticate the market,” says Lebel. “You have to offer technology. You have to offer [products] which are high performance. Things have to remain simple, which is a challenge in itself. Making something very technological, very new and different, and yet simple—it’s probably the biggest challenge.”
“What we’ve learned in Europe about simplification is something that we will effectively look into for the U.S.,” adds Gabai-Pinsky.
Other musts is that a product works quickly, is easy to use and involves simple gestures.
“It needs to be more performance oriented, more result oriented, very simple, right to the point, explaining what the problem is and giving right away the solution and high performance,” she continues.
The language used to talk to men about skin care benefits through advertising needs to meet their comfort zones, as well.
“Men want to know who you are, what you promise and why you are right for them,” says Louvet. “Differences only come out in the execution, where men prefer more straightforward and direct communication approaches. In the fragrance category, this demands particular skill, as we are not only talking to him, but at the same time, also to her—she buys almost half of all male fragrances, either as gifts or together with him.”
Nivea executives carefully chose the descriptor for the Revitalizing line, relaunched at the end of 2009. Had it been a product for women, it probably would have been marketed as an “antiwrinkle cream,” says Hollmann-Peters. “For men, it’s more about the powerful revitalizing benefit and it’s also linked to the Q-10 ingredient.
“Men want to look ‘healthy’ and ‘energized,’” she continues. Along the same lines, while some believe there could be a growing market for men’s makeup (“everybody wants to look good,” says BPI’s Henry), the word “makeup” is wrong for men.
“No man wants to be ‘made up,’” says Gabai-Pinsky. “Men want to be ‘enhanced’ and ‘handsome,’ so we have to reinvent the terminology.”
BPI’s Jean Paul Gaultier has found a niche following for its men’s color cosmetics, and other brands—such as Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent—have introduced items geared toward guys.
For advertising, executives say humor is important. (Think Axe/Lynx’s zany spots.) And when it comes to choosing spokespeople for grooming or fragrance products, it’s key to make men feel secure.
“It’s not just girls who are insecure about the way they look—we need to be sensitive to the potential impact our advertising can have on the way guys feel about themselves,” says P&G’s Louvet. “For example, attractive male models and celebrities with unattainable physiques make some men feel insecure and put them off buying the product. Depending on the segment you’re talking to, it could be that you’re much better to have a more ‘down-to-earth’ face of the brand, someone guys can relate to more easily. For other segments with different needs, they want to see the rock star or movie star they identify themselves with.”
The retail scene is still evolving in Europe, too. As elsewhere, men spend less time than women in-store and like to have a dedicated and one-stop shopping area with a clear assortment.
“What we need to define better in Europe is the point of sale experience,” says Gabai-Pinsky. “Europe is the most difficult market when it comes to effectively creating that destination for men. We have to find a way to carve some space on walls or on gondolas where men can be comfortable shopping.” “You still find a lot of shelves where you have the male products in the category’s section, so you find the male deodorant in the overall deodorant section, and so on,” says Hollmann-Peters. “We know from research that men like to have one-stop shopping.”
One way Lauder has catered to some men’s love of technology—and general dislike of having to speak too much with female sales associates—is by devising a small, handheld skin analyzer that immediately gives skin diagnostics.
“Because men are not necessarily comfortable shopping in the same environment as women and do not ask a lot of questions, the digital platform becomes absolutely essential,” says Gabai-Pinsky.
Men spend an average of 22 hours a week online and 60 percent of 15- to 50-year-old guys are members of a social network, according to Louvet. So the Internet is an especially effective realm to nab guys.
“Everywhere [Lab Series] is in e-commerce it is its biggest door, and it’s something we’re going to develop moving forward,” says Gabai-Pinsky, adding that’s not to say Lauder won’t pursue its brick-and-mortar strategy, as well. “We know that men go online to get information before they make the step of buying a product.”
BPI is selling online “huge quantities” of skin care for men, especially through Douglas’ Web site. Beiersdorf, meantime, has dedicated part of its Nivea Web site to men’s care, including product descriptions, and it can also touch upon topics such as cars.
Across the board, executives see a bright future in Europe for the men’s fragrance and grooming categories, especially since the younger men coming into play are much less afraid of using products than their older counterparts. Concurrently, the aging population (which fighting the onslaught of time) holds great opportunity for skin care.
“It’s a market that’s here to stay and [will] continue to grow,” says Lebel