September 16, 2005 The US$2 billion dollar shaving market was energized yesterday when market-leader Gillette announced it will introduce a five blade razor. Apart from being the first five blade razor, it is the world’s first razor to feature advanced technology on the front AND back of the blade cartridge. On the back of the cartridge is a Precision Trimmer blade enabling the approximately 40% of US males sporting some form of facial hair to tri, shape and shave under their nose. Though Gillette has approximately 70% of the global shaving market, Schick has been making inroads recently with a temporary injunction against false advertising claims by Gillette for its M3Power razor (currently the top selling razor in the U.S.), Gillette’s inability to legally prevent Schick selling its four blade razor by arguing that the patent it holds for three-bladed razors extends to four-bladed razors, and the news a fortnight ago that Schick would introduce a powered model of its four blade razor.
The shaving market
The Gillette Company was founded on shaving technology when King C. Gillette invented the safety razor with disposable blades in 1901. Though things were initially slow - in the first year of manufacture (1903), he sold just 51 razor sets and 168 blades - Gillette knew he was on the right track. The following year when he was granted the first U.S. patent on the safety razor, sales soared to 90,000 razors and 12 million blades.
In 1915, Gillette introduced the first women’s razor, Milady Décolletée, and though the “blue blade” was introduced in 1932 and the “Thin Blade” in 1938, the next major breakthrough was the post war introduction (1946) of the Gillette Blue Blade Dispenser, eliminating the need to unwrap blades.
In 1957 Gillette introduced an adjustable razor with three settings – for light, medium and heavy beards – and as the sixties dawned, the results of years of R&D began to reach market in the form of advanced blade materials. In 1960, the first Super Blue Blade featuring a silicone coating was introduced, then in 1963 the Gillette Super Stainless (a coated stainless steel blade) and finally in 1969, blades were coated with a platinum chromium coating designed to enhance corrosion resistance.
The first of the multi-blade systems was introduced in 1971 when Gillette debuted the Trac II, the first twin-blade shaving system, followed in 1976 by the first twin blade disposable razor for men. The pivoting head was introduced in 1977 , the lubricating strip in 1985 and in 1989 Gillette introduced the Sensor, the first razor with spring-mounted twin blades.
In 1998 Gillette introduced the MACH3 shaving system, the first triple-blade shaving system, and in 2004 added M3Power, the first micro-powered wet shaving system making it easier to shave more thoroughly with one easy power stroke.
But Schick was purchased by Energizer Holdings in 2003 and while Gillette celebrated a century of incredible technological leadership in forging the marketplace and indeed, changing the way males look, Schick immediately began applying the commercial blow-torch to the runaway market leader by introducing the four-bladed Quattro and beginning a series of well-documented legal skirmishes.
Schick will be adding a battery-powered Quattro to its lineup in the next few weeks, so the launch of Gillette's Fusion (that’s what it is called) in both manual and battery-powered models is clearly designed to take the wind from its competitor’s sales until it can deliver the five blader into stores early next year.
In Q3 2003, Schick-Wilkinson Sword introduced Quattro, the world's first four-blade razor which brought an immediate legal response from Gillette which attempted to block the sale of the Quattro in the courts. When a decision was handed down allowing the Quattro to go to market, Gillette announced its new technology several months earlier than it had planned. Gillette's Mach3 family is the world's top-selling razor - the product family has accumulated close to US$10 billion in United States sales since its launch in 1998.
The M3Power system operates under 62 patents and became available in North America in May 2004, becoming the top selling razor immediately.
The Gillette Fusion System
“Gillette Fusion is more than just a next generation shaving brand, it’s the future of shaving,” said James M. Kilts, Chairman, President and CEO, The Gillette Company. “Gillette Fusion extends our rich history of innovation. It’s a breakthrough platform that will continue to drive our category leadership.”
Both shaving systems feature a breakthrough 5 blade Shaving Surface technology on the front of the cartridge, with blades spaced 30 percent closer together than MACH3 blades. The combination of adding more blades and narrowing the inter-blade span creates a “Shaving Surface” that distributes the shaving force across the blades, resulting in significantly less irritation and more comfort. The Precision Trimmer blade, a single blade on the back of the cartridge, allows men to easily trim sideburns, shave under the nose and shape facial hair with control and precision.
“For the first time in our history, we are launching two revolutionary shaving products simultaneously,” said Peter K. Hoffman, President, Blades and Razors, The Gillette Company. “The Gillette Fusion brand sets a new standard in shaving technology and performance. We have high expectations that it will break the sales records previously set by Gillette MACH3.”
Gillette Fusion Power is the first razor to bring advanced electronics to wet shaving. Its patented on-board micro-chip optimizes the performance of the razor by regulating the voltage and frequency. A Low Battery Indicator Light illuminates when the AAA battery needs to be changed, and the Automatic Shut-off feature turns off the razor after approximately eight minutes of continuous operation in case of accidental activation. In addition, Gillette Fusion Power blades feature Gillette’s most advanced blade coating technology to provide incredible glide and comfort.
Both the manual and power versions of Gillette Fusion include additional features on the front of the cartridge to improve the performance of the Shaving Surface. The new Flexible Comfort Guard follows the contours of the face to help the Shaving Surface comfortably shave closer. An Enhanced Indicator Lubrastrip fades to white when optimal shave conditions have been reduced. Both products feature a superbly engineered handle with an elastomer coating to provide a secure grip, better control, and a design that is elegant, highly functional and as next generation as the products’ performance.
Consumer testing, in accordance with the industry’s most rigorous standards, confirms that Gillette Fusion has raised the bar of shaving performance. Gillette Fusion is significantly preferred over the current best-performing manual shaving system, MACH3Turbo, by 2-to-1 and Gillette Fusion Power outperforms M3Power by a significant margin.
“The performance of Gillette Fusion and Fusion Power is unprecedented, and testing among thousands of consumers overwhelmingly proves these are the world’s best shaving systems,” said Mr. Hoffman. “We listened to consumers and developed products that meet the shaving needs of all men, with or without facial hair, to help them look and feel their very best.”
Gillette Fusion and Gillette Fusion Power will be available in North America during the First Quarter 2006 in food, drug, convenience and mass merchandise stores. The Gillette Fusion razor with two cartridges will retail for approximately US$9.99, and the Fusion Power razor with one cartridge and a AAA Duracell battery will retail for approximately US$11.99. A 4-pack of refill cartridges for Gillette Fusion will retail for approximately US$12.00 to US$13.00, and a 4-pack of Fusion Power cartridges will retail for approximately US$13.00 to US$14.00.