Fresh off its December 2018 acquisition by Procter & Gamble, Walker & Co.’s shaving brand Bevel launched into skin care this week in hopes of becoming the choice personal-care brand for men of color.
The skin-care collection features four products — a face wash, a toner, a spot corrector and a gel moisturizer – and mirrors the “end-to-end system” that Bevel has for its shaving category. (It offers pre-shave, shave and post-shave products.) The new assortment is an attempt to deepen the brand’s relationship with current customers and also reach potential consumers who do not shave, said Tristan Walker, Walker & Co. founder and CEO.
“We always knew this was a direction we wanted to go into,” said Walker of the new skin-care line. “We have convinced customers of their ability to shave [without irritation], so we have a lot of trust with these consumers.”
Bevel entered the grooming market in 2013 as a direct-to-consumer brand (it now has distribution with Target and Amazon) to serve men of color who suffer from skin irritation during shaving. According to Walker, this is the 80 percent of the population with curly and coarse hair. Walker declined to disclose sales or growth figures for the shaving line. More traditional players have been hit hard by the emergence of indie brands and also shifting market trends: P&G’s Gillette, once a leader in the space, has lost market share. The acquisition of Bevel and its niche customer group allows P&G to reach new and different customers and offset Gillette’s losses.
P&G recently reported during its first-quarter earnings in October that its grooming sales increased around 10 percent versus a year ago. Additionally, its shave-care category saw “modest growth,” which P&G attributed to in-store merchandising support and more investment in direct-to-consumer programs like Gillette Shave Club.
Walker & Co. reportedly sold for $31 million dollars and raised over $33 million in total venture capital funding. In 2017, revenue was estimated to be between $15 million and $25 million for the parent company, with an even split between retail sales and subscription sales, according to consumer analyst company Loose Threads. Bevel’s expansion into skin care also hits upon several market trends when it comes to a decline in shaving sales. “Young adults ages 18 to 34 view and approach the rituals of shaving and grooming differently than their older counterparts, which also reflects the generational shift in the expectations of shaving and hair removal,” said Olivia Guinaugh, Mintel’s home and personal-care analyst, of the declining category. According to Mintel research, adults ages 35 and older are more likely than adults ages 18 to 34 to agree that beards should be well-groomed and that women should remove facial hair, indicating that younger adults are taking a more “relaxed approach” to their shaving and hair-removal routines.
Additionally, the interest and growth of brands embracing men and people of color is also growing. Global sales of men’s toiletries, shaving products and fragrances were expected to exceed $50 billion in 2018, according to Euromonitor International, and millennials notably respond more positively to marketing showcasing diversity. P&G has product offerings within its larger Pantene and Head & Shoulders brands that do cater to ethnic hair, but it does not have an entire brand dedicated to customers of color, said Kelly Vanasse, a spokesperson for P&G Beauty and Grooming.
“We have been involved in working with the African community for a number of years, but we want to accelerate our connection,” she said. “There is a difference in terms of how consumers connect with brands [like Pantene and Head & Shoulders], and their connection with brands that were developed [specifically for them].”
With its skin-care launch, Bevel plans to introduce a new sampling program available for à la carte purchases and its product subscribers. It also has a new partnership with the Brooklyn Nets to offer barbershop experience incorporating both shave and skin-care products at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but the launch date has not been finalized. When it comes to customer education around the products, the brand will detail the products in its newsletter and editorial content arm, Bevel Code. Walker declined to say how many subscribers, newsletter readers and monthly Bevel Code visitors the brand has.
“Our core focus is to be the No. 1 personal-care brand for men of color, and we are steadfast in that commitment. So long as no one else takes that mantle, we will,” he said. “The market is catching up with us, not the other way around.”