Not into manscaping.

Photographer: MCT/MCT via Getty Images

The Beards Have Won

Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. He was London bureau chief for Bloomberg News and is the author of “Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable.”
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Wander around the trendier parts of east London these days and you'll see more Chewbacca lookalikes than at Comic-Con. Beards, it seems, are back, in a global fashion shift that's chipping away at razor blade purchases by men, at the same time as more women are turning to laser treatments for their depilation needs. That's left razor manufacturers in search of a new business model -- one that's likely to focus on shaving needs men might not have previously even known they have.

U.K. sales of razors and blades dropped by 3.6 percent last year, extending 2013's 0.6 percent decline, according to a new report on U.K. lifestyles by market research company Mintel:

The fashion for facial hair on men has continued into 2015, resulting in a continuance in deflated sales in the shaving and hair-removal markets. The shaving and hair-removal markets are also threatened by the increasing availability of long-term hair removal options such as intense pulsed light and laser devices.

King of Shaves, a British company dedicated to stubble removal, has seen its sales cut in half in the past two years to a bit more than 5 million pounds ($7.7 million). Last year, company founder Will King blamed celebrities such as the recently bearded George Clooney, plus the geek cool of shaggy-chinned internet entrepreneurs, for popularizing facial hair. In recent years, luminaries ranging from soccer legend David Beckham to heir-to-the-throne Prince Harry have taken the hirsute route.

At Procter & Gamble, which owns the world's market-leading Gillette brand, global unit sales of razor blades dropped at an annual pace of 1.5 percent last month, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Deborah Aitken. That extended April's 4.2 percent year-on-year decline and May's 1.7 percent contraction. P&G's revenue from its broader grooming business was about $8 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, accounting for almost 10 percent of its total sales. Here's how that business has been doing:

Source: Bloomberg

P&G Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller is on the record as blaming the rise of pogonophiles, as beard lovers are known, on Movember, the annual charitable effort that's raised almost $560 million worldwide for prostate cancer research. After sporting a hairy upper lip for four weeks for a good cause, the theory goes, more and more men are forgoing their normal shaving routines.

P&G, though, is fighting back. Faces, after all, aren't the only places where hair grows. So Gillette has "applied more than 100 years of shaving expertise to design its first razor created for the male terrain." The Gillette website has a section devoted to "Manscaping" with tips on how men can depilate their armpits, chests, backs and groins.

We'll see how many Wookiees go for that.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Cameron Abadi at cabadi2@bloomberg.net