All surveys point to the same phenomenon: the global market for men’s cosmetics is booming. According to a recent study by Kline & Company, the male skin care market has nothing of a niche market anymore. In this context, even the term “metrosexual” - a portmanteau word that, throughout the first decade of the century, symbolised men’s new behaviour of towards beauty - has turned obsolete. “It used to imply a certain niche group, whereas in 2012, all types of men, in urban and suburban areas, are using male grooming products,” explains Nancy Mills, Consumer Practice Industry Manager at Kline & Company.

Double-digit growth

As far as sales are concerned, it is a real emerging market, with several segments recording double-digit growth rates. Recent figures on men’s grooming tools and products [1] released by The NPD Group, reveal men continue to discover the benefits of keeping up appearances. “Men’s grooming tools are among the largest dollar growth drivers in the overall personal care industry and product categories like men’s facial skincare continue to grow at a fast pace,” says the research firm in a release.

Vincent Clerc, spokesmodel of Sothys Homme

Vincent Clerc, spokesmodel of Sothys Homme

According to Kline & Company, sales of men’s cosmetics and toiletries in the U.S. could hit US$ 3.2 billion by 2016, up from an estimated US$2.6 billion this year and US$ 2.2 billion in 2006. As far as the European market is concerned, sales of skincare products have boomed from 289 million euros in 2005 to 420 million euros in 2010 in the continent’s five biggest markets - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK - according to Mintel.

The surge in sales is also affecting new markets. In China, the male grooming market should increase by more than 20% a year during 2012 to 2014, according to RNCOS.

The boom of grooming tools

The rise of the men’s cosmetics market comes together with a strong growth in sales of electrical appliances especially dedicated to men.

For instance, in the 12 months ending June 2012, U.S. sales of men’s electric shavers and men’s trimmers gained 9 percent and 12 percent, respectively in dollar sales. According to The NPD Group, sales of facial trimmers grew 13 percent in dollar sales. Pen trimmers and nose/ear trimmers together accounted for 13 percent of men’s trimmer dollars and increased 22 percent and 19 percent in units, respectively. Body groomers gained nearly 16 percent in unit sales in the 12 months ending June. Body groomers skew toward the under-35 age group and are even more popular among men under age 25. [2]

There are several sociological changes concerning both mature and emerging markets that may explain this dramatic shift that has no reason to slow down: an increased number of men employed in the sector of services, increased competition in the workplace, ageing baby boomers eager to stay stylish, and the young generation influenced by changing standards of male beauty.

Point of sales attractiveness

However, the men’s market is not as easy to capture as it seems. As impressive as they are impressive, growth rates do not always match the initial expectations of many manufacturers. Especially as competition has increased greatly in this market.

In the U.S., over nine in ten men use some sort of grooming products today, claims The NPD Group. [3] Nevertheless, apart from the usual toiletries and from perfumes, the progress is notable only regarding a limited range of face care products.

At Sothys, the French brand specialised in skin and body products sold at beauty parlours, three separate categories of targets have been considered for renewing the men’s range: “beginners”, using the bare minimum of cosmetics; “amateurs”, they use men’s products but do not hesitate to borrow those of their wife, “confirmed users,” who appreciate the most innovative products and want a perfect result.

Because of its positioning, Sothys is perfectly aware of how difficult it is to tap into this market. "Although men are becoming increasingly familiar with beauty products, it is not easy for them to push the door of a beauty institute." The brand, which now generates 8 to 10% of its turnover in the men’s segment thus observes that if sales are taking off in spas, they remain marginal in beauty institutes; the latter representing 90% of the Sothys’ points of sale worldwide.

Despite the huge potential of the men’s market, both brands and retailers still need to find the most effective way to communicate with these new male consumers. “They have still not developed specific communication strategies for men, and the sales universes are still very much women-oriented, especially in selective distribution,” recently explained Anne Césard, project manager at French market research firm Xerfi.

As far as Sothys is concerned, the answer was to develop a range of products being both simple and practical, in order to convince men, but also to enrol Vincent Clerc, an international rugby player, world cup vice-champion with the French team in 2011, as the brand’s spokesmodel.

The way brands speak to men is even more important as the beauty industry was historically built to address women’s needs. “Men have become increasingly conscious of the perks associated with looking good,” says Karen Grant, The NPD Group. “They have a heightened awareness that looking good may provide them an advantage in the workplace as well as in their personal lives. However, men have different skin than women and the men’s grooming brands need to continue educating them as well as make them feel comfortable in the shopping environment to gain sales in this category,” she adds.