Gillette Faces New Attack From an Old Razor Rival

By Sharon Terlep Features Dow Jones Newswires

Another razor rival is taking a cut at Gillette.

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Edgewell Personal Care Co., maker of Schick, the No. 2 U.S. brand, is mounting a direct challenge to the Procter & Gamble Co. unit with an online subscription service that sells blades that fit on a Gillette handle but cost less.

"Men are creatures of habit, and anything we can do to lower the barrier of entry to try our product will be helpful," said Patrick Kane, who runs Edgewell's men's shave business.

The move comes as P&G is scrambling to ward off competition from online razor startups and cheaper competitors. Gillette's share of the U.S. market, close to 70% in 2011, fell to 54% last year, according to Euromonitor.

P&G recently announced it would slash prices by 12% on average and put a new focus on its cheaper products.

A Gillette spokeswoman said the company produces higher-quality blades. "Razor technology is a matter of microns -- and how every single component comes together matters," she said. Men, "shouldn't have to choose between convenience, flexibility, quality and value."

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The website, SchickHydro.com, launches Wednesday and will allow people to sign up for shipments of Hydro Connect blades that work with either Gillette's Mach 3 or its pricier Fusion. Refills range from $1.78 to $3.33 per cartridge depending the type of blade and number of refills in the package. Regular Hydro refills that go on a Schick handle are also available.

Gillette's online subscription service sells a five-pack of Mach 3 refills for $2.60 per cartridge and a Fusion four-pack for $5.36 per cartridge with the fourth shipment free.

Edgewell, with a $1.4 billion shave business globally, is late to the online game. Dollar Shave Club launched in 2012 and Harry's followed shortly after, both offering cheap blades and an alternative to shopping for razors in a store. P&G's Gillette has had an online service since 2014 but the shave-club business remains dominated by Dollar Shave Club and Harry's.

"We didn't think there was an advantage to just throwing our products out there, we needed to provide something that's unique," said Edgewell spokesman Chris Gough. "It's not a secret that the shave clubs have not made money, and we need to make money."

Schick has about 15% of the U.S. men's razor market, down from 19% in 2011, according to Euromonitor. The figure doesn't include Edgewell's private-label offerings.

Edgewell said it would target what it considers a weak point of Dollar Shave Club: an inflexible delivery plan that leaves many men with a stockpile of blades. P&G said its research found the same annoyance, which is why the company this month overhauled its online service with a system called "Gillette on Demand" that allows customers to order razors via text message.

Dollar Shave Club, acquired for $1 billion last year by Unilever PLC, gives the option of monthly or bimonthly orders. Members have always been able to pause shipments. Starting this month, they will also be able to skip deliveries, a spokeswoman said. She said the company doesn't believe it loses a significant number of customers because they amass a backlog of blades.

Edgewell will allow customers to order as infrequently as once every nine months.

Executives said company had its legal team vet the Gillette-compatible product as a precautionary measure against potential legal action by P&G, which has sued several rivals alleging copyright infringement.

Write to Sharon Terlep at sharon.terlep@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 24, 2017 08:51 ET (12:51 GMT)