12-21-2013, 12:20 PM
#1
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I have a question I would love to hear people's thoughts on.

Let's start with the premise that the number of "traditional" wet shavers is a limited subset of the greater shaving community. At least in the modern industrial countries we are.

There have long been a number of great providers of "name brand" shaving soaps and creams. Prorasso, the three T's, C&S, Harris, MWF, Cella, the German brands etc. They have done a great job for decades providing wonderful products to the traditional wet shaving community.

Over the last few years there has been exponential growth of the "Artisan" community. Mostly people working out of their homes or a very small workspace making small batches of wonderful soaps and selling them over the Interweb. Mike's Natural, MW, Mama Bear, LA Shaving, NY Shaving etc etc etc.

With the limited number of true brush and soap (cream) wet shavers out there, is it possible that these artisans are eating into the sales of the larger companies, and if so, at what point would one expect these non-artisan companies to pull out of the market? Are traditional wet shavers growing at a fast enough pace to keep all these artisans afloat without hurting sales from the traditional companies??

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 12-21-2013, 12:48 PM
#2
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1. I don't think the number of artisans has grown exponentially.

2. I don't think it makes a huge difference. I can't even drive to a store that sells a shaving brush or a safety razor, so I can't imagine that artisans would be much of a factor if we see the same lack of on-the-shelf product in brushes, blades, and razors.

3. The real divide is not artisan vs. name brand. It is about traditional mass market distribution (big block deals with large retailers) versus new channels being opened up by the interwubs. All sorts of products are being affected (and I think improved) by the fact that what we can buy is no longer decided amongst big retail and the big distributors.

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 12-21-2013, 12:57 PM
#3
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(12-21-2013, 12:48 PM)Face Bannon Wrote: 2. I don't think it makes a huge difference. I can't even drive to a store that sells a shaving brush or a safety razor, so I can't imagine that artisans would be much of a factor if we see the same lack of on-the-shelf product in brushes, blades, and razors.

Well this question started because I do have a few stores I can drive to, and Merz Apothecary is the one I love the most. About a year ago they started carrying RR soaps, which due to their low cost have quickly become large sellers, and about 6 months ago they stopped carrying DR Harris, and they now are talking about possibly doing away with at least one of the three Ts.

I guess it comes down to just how many people are actually purchasing artisan soaps and are no longer purchasing the "name brand" soaps, but as Merz starts to get rid of the name brands in favor of RR and a couple others if they choose to add others, I feel a bit of the old world shaving is leaving me. There is just something about going into a store and getting to sample the manly items. (I can't use RR much as most of them irritate my skin).

I suspect it would be Trufitt and Hill they do away with as there is a T&H store on Michigan Avenue downtown. I just never go there as it's about $25-$40 to park depending on how long you end up staying.

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 12-21-2013, 01:00 PM
#4
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artisans & artists are always welcome. throughout history they have never hurt anything or anyone. quite the contrary.

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 12-21-2013, 01:05 PM
#5
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(12-21-2013, 12:57 PM)wingdo Wrote: Well this question started because I do have a few stores I can drive to, and Merz Apothecary is the one I love the most. About a year ago they started carrying RR soaps, which due to their low cost have quickly become large sellers, and about 6 months ago they stopped carrying DR Harris, and they now are talking about possibly doing away with at least one of the three Ts.

But you're talking about a product that is already not available at drug store chains, grocery stores, or big box stores. So it's already the very definition of a niche. In that vein, the more the merrier if it entices someone to find something they like. The brick and mortar stores will be there for people who prefer to buy in person, if they can get enough customers.

I think soap in general is on the uptick. I see natural and artisan body soaps all the time in stores like Whole Foods and World Market.

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 12-21-2013, 01:06 PM
#6
  • davizera
  • Non Dvcor Dvco
  • São Paulo - Brazil
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I tend to think that competition is desirable for almost all kinds of markets, excluding natural monopolies.

Also, we are not talking about commodities, but really specialized products. Each one has its niche. If a company outperforms others, it's rewarded by the market with more sales. There can be consolidations, but I still think that wet shaving thrives out of artisans. For us, specially the ones that follow forums, reviews, each new launch and so on, competition is beneficial. We don't buy one product or another, we always buy several options. We are not wet shavers because we want to save, but because it's our hobby. Of course there are a lot of wet shavers looking to save, but they won't buy the products that we are referring to, they will buy, for example, 1 tube or Arko a year and a $3 brush for 20 years.

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 12-21-2013, 01:13 PM
#7
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I can say that, for me, one of the aspects that really drove in the hooks was the ability to search out and try a nearly limitless number of specialty soaps. My mind starts reeling with the possibilities, and I actually think about what soap I'm going to use the next day when I'm puttering around at night.

I've had to exercise real restraint from picking up a bazillion soaps. It's my Achilles heel.

And when you think about it, it's not just the allure of niche artisans. It's also the foreign products that entice me. No matter what a local store stocked, there would be a plethora of other exotic choices available on the internet.

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 12-21-2013, 01:15 PM
#8
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It's like craft beer. Eventually, natural selection will take over and the crummy beers will drop off.

The fact that DRH & T&H aren't selling that well is their own fault and nothing to do with RazoRock or TFS.

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 12-21-2013, 01:54 PM
#9
  • Hanzo
  • Senior Member
  • Oakland, California
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The growth of the Artisans reflect how much the wet shaving community has grown. More and more people are wet shaving and artisans see a way of making money in a new industry, so that's a positive.

I don't think they will hurt the big players financially or displace them. It would seem the combination of lower price , sheer bulk and superior quality means the traditional big players will win head to head with artisans.

Shavers may try the Artisans but will eventually see they can't do better in terms of price/quality, convenience than a kilo of Cella, a tub of TOBS, tube of Proraso or for luxury the others.

We can read how artisans specially craft and customize soaps for individual buyers and customization is a great trend in wet shaving. A custom razor, custom brush, custom bowl or soap is something wonderfully good for us and something only the artisans can offer. So though not a big fan of artisan soaps , I think the artisans doing brushes, bowls and razors are a treasure and we should support their efforts if we can .

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 12-21-2013, 01:58 PM
#10
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No idea how to answer your queries, Doug, as I have only used artisan soaps. Personally, I surely hope the artisan soaps take a firm root in the market and they continue to grow. Smile

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 12-21-2013, 03:01 PM
#11
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If an artisan can make a product that is better, cheaper, or both, more power to them! We have an abundant selection at the moment and if some of the players find they can't compete, they can either improve their product, lower their price, or find another line of work.

From the point of making products available, artisans definitely help the shaving community.

On the other hand there is one way that the artisans hurt the shaving community, and that is i the pocket book. Not that they're products are too expensive, but they just make that many more products that we have to buy, whether we need them or not.

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 12-21-2013, 03:06 PM
#12
  • CMur12
  • Semogueiro de Coração
  • Moses Lake, Washington State, USA
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Doug, I see several advantages to the participation of artisan soap-makers. It used to be that artisan soaps were melt-and-pour glycerin-based soaps with fragrances or natural scents. Now we have true soapmakers who are providing high-quality products in many cases not provided by the larger commercial producers.

1. Some notable commercial soapmakers have moved away from tallow-based soaps, contrary to the desire of many of their customers. Artisan soapmakers have responded by producing tallow-based soaps.

2. Other than the Art of Shaving, no producer of traditional soaps (as opposed to glycerin-based soaps) has offered soaps scented with EO/essential oils, and few of them offer unscented versions. Artisan soapmakers have responded by producing traditional soaps scented with EO and almost all of them offer Unscented, as well. (I can't use most of the well-known traditional name-brand soaps because their fragrances burn my olfactory. Unscented and soaps scented with EO are a Godsend for me.)

Artisans aren't able to offer such features as triple milling, but they don't take some of the shortcuts required by mass production, either. As such, their products can be at times even better than the commercial products. (The best shave soap I have ever used was made by TRBeck in his kitchen. If I can get him to make more, I would like to acquire a goodly stock of his soap.)

In these cases, artisan soapmakers offer what the larger commercial interests have been unwilling to offer, though there is admittedly some overlap.

3. Another advantage of artisan soapmakers is that they are able to survive with a much smaller marketshare. When the larger producers no longer have the customer base for mass production, their products will be discontinued and only the artisans will remain. (This principle would also apply to some of the quality razors that we can now buy.)

- Murray

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 12-21-2013, 03:09 PM
#13
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T&H and DRH have nothing to worry about. their sales have been growing over the last few years and is still on the rise thanks to the new interest men are taking in their own grooming regiment in the same way women have been doing since Eve had an apple.

Furthermore the big name companies you mentioned all have other avenues of revenue not just some shave soap/creams. most of their sales comes from fragrances, bath care, and in the 3 T's case they also have their barbers to fall back on.

Can I also point out that T&H and DRH have been around for over 200 years.

TOBS and GFT for over 100. as have several of the other big names. now no business is ever 100% secure but these guys have seen a lot more troubles than a few pesky artisans who become flavour of the month on a few niches forums.

Competition is healthy, the great will stick around for the customers to enjoy, the mediocre will come and go.

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 12-21-2013, 03:11 PM
#14
  • Shaun
  • Senior Member
  • St Peters, NSW, Australia
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I wish there were more artisans, especially here in Australia. The only local soap, for example...as far as I am aware, is the toilet block Palmolive Shave Stick which is, as the name suggests...

Oh and there's a product from the south west of Western Australia that I'm not even going to mention it's so crap.

So...artisans? Please, more more!

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 12-21-2013, 03:43 PM
#15
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(12-21-2013, 12:20 PM)wingdo Wrote: I have a question I would love to hear people's thoughts on.

Let's start with the premise that the number of "traditional" wet shavers is a limited subset of the greater shaving community. At least in the modern industrial countries we are.

There have long been a number of great providers of "name brand" shaving soaps and creams. Prorasso, the three T's, C&S, Harris, MWF, Cella, the German brands etc. They have done a great job for decades providing wonderful products to the traditional wet shaving community.

Over the last few years there has been exponential growth of the "Artisan" community. Mostly people working out of their homes or a very small workspace making small batches of wonderful soaps and selling them over the Interweb. Mike's Natural, MW, Mama Bear, LA Shaving, NY Shaving etc etc etc.

With the limited number of true brush and soap (cream) wet shavers out there, is it possible that these artisans are eating into the sales of the larger companies, and if so, at what point would one expect these non-artisan companies to pull out of the market? Are traditional wet shavers growing at a fast enough pace to keep all these artisans afloat without hurting sales from the traditional companies??

I got into traditional wet shaving because the typical department/drug store fare wasn't doing the job. It became fashionable for men to shave once every several days. Some people I know told me that their face couldn't take a daily shave. Mine couldn't take it either but I did it anyway because I wanted to continue being clean-shaven.

So when I found these wet shaving forums, guess what I found out: the best stuff isn't made in the U.S. I also found out that manufacturers who originated in the U.S. make things abroad that I would like to have but don't make them readily available stateside.

Artisans give me choices, and a choice to buy American.

It's like wet shaving forums. Others preexisted when The Shave Nook was started but there is a need for the uniqueness this one provides.

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 12-21-2013, 03:47 PM
#16
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I comment here as a consumer as well as a manufacturer / supplier. We began over two years ago and in just that short amount of time I can list off a number of our wholesale accounts that have had to change due to growth. One that I can share as it is already public info on his Facebook page is Shave Nation, he has moved into larger quarters. Another example - Merz itself, I was there with their delivery just two weeks ago. There is a huge sign in the store next door indicating they are expanding, essentially doubling their size. There are others, believe me.

Accounts of ours are upgrading their sites to stay current one way or another. There is a guy... hmmm, lemme see... Goose and the Gander? Nah, Bulloney? Nah, it is Bull Goose - yes, THAT is the name. Biggrin In the last few months Phil upgraded his site AND hired someone. We will be updating our site this spring as well. We have spent several thousand dollars just a few months ago remodeling to expand production. I now receive solicitations from retailers looking for specialty men's grooming products. Many guys want something more than just the mass market stuff you can get at Target.

I shave with straights and pop into antique stores in my travels. In my conversations with the store owners they wonder what the deal is with the popularity of straights. They then go on to tell me it is guys under the age of thirty who are in there buying straights to use.

I share the above with the intent to illustrate that by my observation the market for traditional shaving is growing. I know that our own business, starting from zero has had encouraging growth. As an example of the VAST wealth to be had in this business Wink I have just recently sold my truck with 230,000 miles on it. In its place is another truck with only 97,000 miles on the odometer. Life doesn't get any better than THAT! Biggrin

Which leads me to the interesting note of Merz possibly dropping one of the "T's" in favor of RazoRock. (Disclaimer in the interest of transparency - RazoRock is the manufacturer of our shaving soap.) Any of the Three T's are going to be higher priced than a RazoRock product. A retailer likes those higher priced products for the simple fact that they make more money when they sell a tub at $30.00 rather than a tub at $15.00. EXCEPT when they can sell greater quantities of the $15.00 soap and make even MORE money due to volume. Then bye bye $30.00 soap. And RazoRock has a terrific rep for a high quality soap at a great value. So a retailer can crank through some serious volume of that kind of product and consider dropping a higher priced and slower moving competing product.

Hope that helps with a different viewpoint on the topic.

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 12-21-2013, 03:52 PM
#17
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(12-21-2013, 03:09 PM)riskybadger Wrote: T&H and DRH have nothing to worry about. ers to enjoy, the mediocre will come and go.

I agree with this.
Wetshaving is still a growing trend, and there is room for everyone, artisans and big companies alike.

And well, unlike Face Bannon, I can drive to shops that sells shaving brushes - and safety-razors too! Smile

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 12-21-2013, 03:58 PM
#18
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(12-21-2013, 03:52 PM)oversaturn Wrote: And well, unlike Face Bannon, I can drive to shops that sells shaving brushes - and safety-razors too! Smile

What is it? Is it a chain?

My only point was if Bed Bath and Beyond doesn't sell a shaving brush, and drug stores barely stock DE blades (maybe one kind), we're operating on a niche level where artisan soaps can't really be blamed for anything. We're so far from the mass market that artisan soap makers are signal noise compared to the vastness of the consuming public.

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 12-21-2013, 04:04 PM
#19
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Scott, your excellent post points to a big reason why being a part of TSN is so special: gentlemanly exchange between fellow wetshavers. And I completely agree with your viewpoint; the market share of "traditional wetshavers" is only growing. Those who engage the market as fellow wetshavers with integrity and customer service, like yourself, will benefit, and so will their customers. Those who want to remain aloof and, worse, reformulate their product to cut costs, thinking the discerning wetshaver (who admittedly, is probably a minority) will not notice, may not fare so well.


And Face Bannon makes a great point: we are, as enthusiast traditional wetshavers, almost a drop in the bucket to the big guys.

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 12-21-2013, 05:34 PM
#20
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A couple of the Three T''s abandoned the soap market by producing a substandard product (not DR Harris). Their own choice. They will have to sell through the current stock Sad

However I bought more soap in thee last 2 years than I did in the previous 20 years.



I think it may all balance out Wink

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