Expert's Opinion

Men's Hair Care: A Dark Horse?

By Carrie Lennard, Euromonitor International | November 1, 2010

Carrie Lennard of Euromonitor International investigates the underdog of the grooming category.

Despite strong growth rates seen in most other categories in men’s grooming, men’s hair care is rather limping along at a slower pace, growing by just 3% in value terms in 2008, well under the 6% achieved by the men’s grooming sector overall. Euromonitor International takes a closer look at the sector, examines why the men’s skin care category is outperforming men’s hair care and asks what could be done to put the lifeblood back into it.

Why is men’s skin care growing so much faster than men’s hair care? Men’s hair care currently continues to account for a bigger share of sales than men’s skin care, at $2.5 billion in 2008 compared to skin care’s $1.7 billion. Skin care, however, is set to outpace hair care before long. With a growth rate of 11% in 2008, men’s skin care is undoubtedly the star performer in men’s grooming.

One of the key reasons behind this is the perception by many men that it is acceptable to simply use unisex shampoo, or their existing shower gel. Furthermore, overall hair care was also one of the categories to suffer most in the global economic downturn, and trends in men's grooming frequently mimic trends in the cosmetics and toiletries market as a whole. This meant that just as consumers opted for buy-one-get-one-free offers and private label in hair care, men's hair care also saw consumers trading back down to unisex products.

As a result of all these factors, hair care is expected to record a constant value CAGR of just 1% globally over 2008-2013, and sales are expected to decline in key markets like the UK and Germany.

Male-specific skin care also reflects what is happening in the overall skin care market, that is to say, sales are booming. Male-specific skin care grew considerably faster than any other men’s grooming category in 2008, with 11% value growth. Over 2008-2013, it is predicted to continue to expand strongly, with a CAGR of 8%. While recognizing the importance of a skin care regime, many men do not feel comfortable buying a female or unisex version of such an overtly feminine product, and this has kept male skin care sales strong.

Japan is atypical in that its men's hair care category, valued at $935 million, is considerably larger than the $550 million men's shaving category. The country accounted for 37% of total men’s hair care sales in 2008. Strong uptake of male grooming has meant that concepts like male-only beauty stores/salons and male make-up have long been accepted, and product categories like men's hair care, that are considered more of a novelty in other regions, are well developed there. Japan is proof that it is not disposable income alone, but also culture, which plays a strong role in sales of men's grooming products.

Sales in emerging regions are also disappointingly low despite strong advances in other areas of the sector. Men's hair care comprises only 3% of the Eastern European men’s grooming market, for example, compared to 10% worldwide. The sector is still in its infancy in the region and most men continue to use unisex products. Even in comparatively developed markets such as the UK, men’s hair care has remained stubbornly low, accounting for just 5% of total men’s grooming sales. It seems that even the big names currently putting men’s grooming at the top of their agendas are avoiding men’s hair care products as a result of this lacklustre performance.

Male hair care products are missing from the portfolio of Unilever's Dove Men and Care, which has recently been rolled out across the U.S. and Western European markets, including Italy. Recognizing that many men will simply use shower gel, its cleansing products are marketed as all-in-one body washes.

It need not be this way, however. A cursory glance at the astronomical growth in male hair transplant surgery indicates quite how obsessed most men actually are with their hair. According to the latest figures released by The Hospital Group, a cosmetic surgery group and the UK’s largest hair transplant provider, the number of men having hair surgery increased by 444% between 2004 and 2009. This rise has come despite the fact that the process is widely documented to be extremely painful and expensive and at best produces rather unnatural looking results.

The main issue behind the comparatively low global sales in men’s hair care is that the majority of male hair care manufacturers are missing a trick when it comes to their products’ USP. Far too many products focus on plugging the cleansing properties of their products and this is not really enough of a reason to inspire a loyal following. The real focus should be on anything that suggests maintenance of a full head of hair. Shampoos that promise thicker, fuller hair are rife in the female market, yet conspicuously thin on the ground in male shampoos. There is also real scope for a boom in hybrid consumer health/beauty and personal care innovations that actively boost hair growth.

There should also ideally be more of a focus on products that will slow down the development of premature hair loss being marketed as preventative, instead of just as a solution to an existing problem. This would widen the target age market of these products in much the same way as the marketing of anti-agers as a preventative product has helped to increase sales among the under 30s and even under 20s.

While male hair dye also publically remains largely a subject of ridicule in even the most progressive markets, there is no shortage of men who are privately would-be consumers. Getting the marketing right is difficult.

L’Oréal has just launched a new male specific hair colorant product to take on competitor Just for Men. The range, called Excell, claims to work in five minutes and promises natural results, rather than obvious coverage— because many men fear being ridiculed for dying their hair. Looking ahead through 2014, more major beauty companies are expected to launch their own rival products.

Combe Inc, the personal care company behind Just for Men, has recently launched the brand in the Indian market. The product is distributed in mass channels and endorsed by Indian male model Milind Soman. This tactic is similar to that employed by the Fair & Handsome brand, which used Bollywood actors to help overcome male reluctance about using a product with strong female connotations. There is currently a shortage of serious competition for Just for Men, but with the correct strategy, male hair colorants offer good scope for future growth.

Notable launches in men’s hair care are thin on the ground at present. One such exception is manufacturer Keune Haircosmetics’ Care Line Man, which incorporates shampoo, styling aids and a lotion, which is designed to speed hair growth and lengthen hair by 25% in four days. According to industry sources, the range had already reached sales of $500,000 a month after its September 2009 launch in U.S. salons despite the shampoo retailing at a rather hefty $15 a bottle. The launch is proof that there is scope for growth in men’s hair care to reach levels far beyond those seen at present, but in a category so susceptible to trade down, attention-grabbing innovation and a strong marketing message are vital.

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About the Author:
Carrie Lennard is an industry analyst for global market intelligence firm Euromonitor International. She recently joined the Beauty and Personal Care team following two and a half years experience as the Research Analyst for Germany on Euromonitor’s Core Markets Country Analysis team.
In her current position, Lennard directly contributes to the content and quality of Euromonitor’s Beauty and Personal Care research, which provides strategic analysis of the global market and in-depth coverage of the Beauty and Personal Care industry in more than 80 countries world-wide. She monitors key industry trends and issues on a year-round basis and is responsible for the writing of strategic company profiles and global analysis, which provide detailed insight into corporate activity and the state of the industry.

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