Market booms

The time where skin care products were targeting the specific “metrosexual” niche has come to an end. With the growing popularity of men’s cosmetics the term “metrosexual” is even becoming 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 for market research firm Kline & Company.

Actually, men’s grooming is one of the fastest growing segments in the beauty business. According to Kline [1], in 2011, sales of men’s skin care in the U.S. have seen their best growth in several years. The analysis is the same at Mintel. The Chicago-based research firm forecasts sales of men’s toiletries in the U.S. to 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. This growth is particularly impressive when compared to largely stagnant sales of shaving products and razors in the same area [2].

The demand is driven by social and demographic changes in both mature and emerging markets: 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. New entrants on the markets, as well as technologically advanced products, expanded lines, and innovative packaging are also stimulating sales.

According to Mintel, six in 10 (65%) European men consider their appearance important and almost half (48%) admit what they want most is to look attractive and well groomed. Just 15% of men admit that while it is acceptable for women to use skincare products, it is not acceptable for men to use such products. It’s not only that it has become more socially acceptable for men to put effort into looking and feeling good, as for many women it has almost become a requirement.

Brands are consequently creating new solutions for men, expanding their offering far beyond the traditional deodorant and after-shave. Anti-aging creams, powders, concealers and tinted moisturizers are now entering in men’s beauty routine.

Retailers need to adapt

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,” argues Anne Césard, project manager at French market research firm Xerfi.

Max Herlant at MakeUp in Paris 2012

Max Herlant at MakeUp in Paris 2012

Indeed, many men remain squeamish about products that seem too feminine. Thus, as far as male products are concerned, some words and colours are considered taboo. For instance, the term “make-up” as well as pink and gold colours must be avoided strictly. “It is clear that brands cannot approach the men’s market as they do with the women’s one,” confirmed celebrity makeup artist Max Herlant, during a session dedicated to the enhancement of men’s complexion at the latest edition of the MakeUp in Paris trade show.

As a consequence, brands specifically devoted to men may benefit from a competitive advantage as they can more easily adopt a strong masculine positioning than those derived from the women’s market.

However, from that point of view, retailers are facing the biggest challenge. As the market is growing they tend to devote more shelf space to men’s beauty products but still have to find the relevant environment. In the U.S.A., department stores such as Nordstrom and Macy’s are creating separate sections dedicated solely to men, cosmetics chain Ulta rolled out in-store boutiques called the Men’s Shop, CVS Pharmacy has created Guy Aisles in its stores, and skin-care brand Kiehl’s is building Shave Bars inside its stores.