Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Gillette hopes its growth plans for the women’s shaving category will feel as smooth as silk.
Gillette’s shaving business was directed almost exclusively at men between 1903, when the company introduced its first razor, and 1992, when the company launched Sensor for Women, a shaving system developed especially for women.
The women’s shaving franchise has since become a major source a growth for the Boston-based company, which is now looking for continued growth overseas as it infiltrates countries where women’s shaving is undeveloped.
“There is an opportunity for us, especially in female shaving, in many countries because women are still using men’s razors,” said Eric Krause, who heads communications at Gillette’s North American group.
According to sales-tracking firm Information Resources Inc., women’s razors and blades brought in over $77 million in retail sales in the U.S. last year.
Chuck Gautreaux, toiletry buyer for K&B Drugs of New Orleans, observed: “Prior to Gillette introducing Sensor for Women, the [women’s shaving] category was pretty flat. When it was introduced, it created a lot of activity. Now our bestseller is Sensor Excel for Women. In terms of units, Sensor for Women, which is less expensive, sells the most.”
Total worldwide sales at Gillette were up 10 percent in 1996, after an increase of 12 percent in 1995 and 1994. The company’s largest source of revenues is blades and razors, which racked up $2.8 billion last year, an increase of 8 percent over 1995.
In 1995, Gillette signaled it planned to step up its women’s business further with the introduction of Satin Care for Women shave gel (called Satin Gel in Europe), which now ranks as the leading shaving preparation for women on the Continent, according to the company. Last year, sales for the women’s shaving gel nearly doubled in the U.S. and almost tripled in Europe, according to the company. IRI’s numbers show that Satin Care’s U.S. retail sales hit $19 million in 1996.
Earlier this year, the Satin Care brand was extended to include a moisturizer designed to be used after shaving and a shower gel designed to clean, moisturize and be used as a shaving preparation.
Gillette expects further growth from the women’s market as it becomes more proficient at developing marketing programs for shaving products for women. There are many differences between how men and women regard shaving, said Krause.
For example, according to Gillette’s consumer research, women think of shaving as a chore, while men see it as a skill. Women also change blades less often than men. In addition, what women spend on shaving is a fraction of what they spend on other toiletries, while men spend more money on shaving than any other toiletry.
Another challenge for the company is converting women to shaving in countries where other types of hair removal are more popular. In Germany, for example, only 20 percent of the women’s market removes hair and of that, just 7 percent use wet shaving.
In countries where wet shaving is rare, Gillette runs advertorials in women’s magazines to help explain the process.
Last year, Gillette added power to its plans for the company’s worldwide growth when it merged with Duracell, a leading manufacturer of batteries. The result of the merger is a company with net sales of $9.7 billion.
The group also made two acquisitions in the blades and razors marketplace: Factory for Consumer Products, a Russian blade manufacturer, and Astra, the leading Czech producer of blades and razors.
Deodorants and antiperspirants (Right Guard, Gillette Series, Soft & Dri and Dry Idea) constitute Gillette’s biggest toiletries category, but the company is also a factor with its White Rain hair and body care range. Gillette also owns a direct-sell cosmetics company called Jafra.

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