Despite so much activity in men’s grooming, sales in Western Europe grew just 1.3% in 2017 to $12.5 billion, according to Euromonitor International. Tepid gains were blamed on the UK, where sales slipped 0.1% to $2.3 billion. Similarly, in France, sales increased just 0.7% to slightly more than $1.9 billion. Spain witnessed the strongest growth, up 4.9% to more than $1.1 billion, reflecting a return to form after a number of difficult years caused by the country’s economic decline. It was an entirely different story in Eastern Europe, as sales in the region increased 8.2% to more than $3.3 billion. Russia was a particularly strong contender, as sales gained 13.5% to nearly $1.5 billion.
Across Europe, men are opening up to a wider variety of personal care products as well as developing a deeper sensitivity to the subtleties of the grooming solutions they purchase. According GlobalData research, this comes from greater engagement by men about how personal care products impact their appearance and self confidence. In particular, most men seek to cultivate an image of health and this trend is reflected in the strength of the “workout” culture. In GlobalData’s Q4 2017 survey, nearly half (48%) of European men think that one of the greatest benefits of beauty and grooming products is that they promote a healthy appearance, followed by improving self confidence (38%).
“By providing products that promote a healthy appearance, brands can circumvent traditional norms about male use of beauty products,” maintains Peter Hays, associate analyst, GlobalData. “And looking forward, brands can begin marketing personal care as part of a comprehensive wellness routine.”
Wishing for Whiskers
The biggest change in male grooming trends is that European men are shaving less often. According to Kantar Worldpanel, there were 35 million fewer weekly facial shaving occasions in 2017, reflecting the trend for beards among men of all ages. Hays contends that beards may have reached a peak of sorts, though the trend is not necessarily on the decline at this point.
“When it comes to beard care, men in Europe are becoming more aware of the kinds of products they use,” he noted.
Initially, beard care was fairly basic, focused mainly on hygiene and scent, but the newest generation of beard products are more sophisticated, incorporating elements such as natural oils and fair trade ingredients that appeal to growing ethical, health and efficacy concerns. A recent newcomer to UK beard care is Fellows, which produces beard oils that claim to be vegan friendly, cruelty free and free from harsh chemicals.
“We also increasingly see beard care products that also emphasize skin health benefits in order to appeal to male consumers who are more conscious of their skin care needs,” states Hays.
In fact, there has been a veritable flood of launches in the past couple of years, from the wackily-named Beard Spunk, Mr Natty Face, The Beard Shed and Percy Nobleman to more mainstream offerings from Bull Dog and Elemis to premium positioned beard care products from Tom Ford, Acqua di Parma and Penhaligons.
European men are also expanding their routines to incorporate additional products they use more often, such as skin care. According to KantarWorldpanel, 31% of European men use skin care on a mostly daily basis. Penetration levels are highest among Polish men, at 37%, and they are also more likely to use skin care formulas more than once a day. European men are becoming more discerning about the products they use and are taking greater interest in ingredients and formulations. In addition to seeking out high efficacy products, they are also taking more notice of natural and environmentally-friendly claims.
“Natural and environmentally-friendly claims can act as a proxy for quality and credibility for men buying personal care products,” noted Hays, quoting from GlobalData’s Q1 2017 survey which shows that nearly half (45%) of male European consumers say that natural ingredients would make them likely to choose one brand over another.
UK men’s grooming brand Bulldog has successfully exploited this trend with a range of hard-working products containing natural ingredients as well as ticking free-from boxes such as parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, artificial colors and synthetic fragrances. The emergence of unknown niche brands in men’s grooming is also indicative of male consumers looking beyond well-established brand names and seeking other indicators for determining brand strength and appeal.
“According to GlobalData’s Q4 2015 survey, both natural and clinically inspired ingredients are more important than an established brand when it comes to increasing European men’s trust in personal care products,” stated Hays, who says this presents a clear opportunity for new brands to engage inexperienced users with a combination of efficacy credentials and natural formulations.
Male brands are moving beyond the basics of shaving and skin care with bigger and more holistic product lines focusing on specific issues and concerns around grooming. It seems that this month’s launch of David Beckham’s House 99, in collaboration with L’Oréal Luxe, could really be a game-changer, offering solutions that affect how a man feels as well as how he looks. Hero products include Seriously Groomed Beard & Hair Balm, Smooth Back Shaping Pomade, Bold Statement Tattoo Body Moisturizer and Greater Look Face Moisturizer.
As the European men’s grooming market expands and attracts new users, it will be up to brands and retailers to make men feel more comfortable purchasing their own products, as well as offering more sophisticated solutions beyond the basics. Hays contends that retailers should create space in which men are being directly catered to and can help engage them with less familiar applications and products. A collaboration between brands and retailers could be the fuel to boost future sales in the European men’s grooming category.
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Imogen Matthews is a respected consultant, journalist and researcher focusing on trends in the beauty industry. She regularly contributes to many of the world’s foremost beauty trade titles. Every year in April, she publishes The Premium Market Report, focusing on trends in the UK premium beauty markets.