03-13-2015, 08:31 AM
#1
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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I'm sure we have all taken note of the several new artisan soap makers that have began to offer soaps along with other grooming items over the past year or so.  Several of these companies are seeing immediate success, quickly selling out, reloading, selling out again and finally expanding and improving the product.  I can't believe how many different companies there are and a new one seems to pop-up every month or so.  The success of these artisans is largely due to our inability to "just buy one" and looking at my stash and several other members' collections it is clear that many of us have more soap than we could use up by the end of the decade, some of us already have soap supplies that will likely take our entire lives to get through (Hi Claus!).  Surely we will have to stop buying and just use up what we have at some point.  The secondary market (B/S/T) is flooded with soaps and creams and there seems to be fewer and fewer buyers unless the price is at a great loss.  So my question I pose to the board is how sustainable do you think the market is?  I can't imagine our niche market supporting all of these companies for the long term.  It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next year or two. 

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 03-13-2015, 08:47 AM
#2
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(03-13-2015, 08:31 AM)blzrfn Wrote: I'm sure we have all taken note of the several new artisan soap makers that have began to offer soaps along with other grooming items over the past year or so.  Several of these companies are seeing immediate success, quickly selling out, reloading, selling out again and finally expanding and improving the product.  I can't believe how many different companies there are and a new one seems to pop-up every month or so.  The success of these artisans is largely due to our inability to "just buy one" and looking at my stash and several other members' collections it is clear that many of us have more soap than we could use up by the end of the decade, some of us already have soap supplies that will likely take our entire lives to get through (Hi Claus!).  Surely we will have to stop buying and just use up what we have at some point.  The secondary market (B/S/T) is flooded with soaps and creams and there seems to be fewer and fewer buyers unless the price is at a great loss.  So my question I pose to the board is how sustainable do you think the market is?  I can't imagine our niche market supporting all of these companies for the long term.  It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next year or two. 

I feel like it's a problem having so much products geared towards men. It use to be quite simple picking and choosing and sticking to that choice. If I'm shunned, so be it, but that is what i feel.

Regardless, i think this will be a continued demand. Some of the products are great for some, the others for the rest, and there are so many different formulas and scents that are preferred. However, when a few of the same things begin to work, everyone else feels like they can do the same thing, but better, and this is why we have so many different products for something that should be simple and limited after a certain time.

From my Tab through the Tap

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 03-13-2015, 08:52 AM
#3
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I say the more wet shaving expands and comes back into the main stream as it has the more we will see. Eventually as with everything it will reach its peak and either level out or die off some. As many wet shavers as their are we are still a small community so to us it seems like artisans are everywhere. I have been wet shaving over a year now and have already seen a couple fade out. Sad to see but if your not at the top of your game you will not survive in a community as small as ours. Also, if the market gets flooded with a certain brand who is the latest great thing at the moment and everyone has or has tried their product it gets harder to sell in the BST unless you ask for next to nothing. Nature of the beast. 

Its funny though. Everyone can have a soap from an artisan and not care to buy more in the BST. Let that artisan disappear and its suddenly a mad grab for all you can get. Same with anything else I guess.

In the end I wish all the best of luck and look forward to seeing what all the artisans wow us with next!

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 03-13-2015, 08:52 AM
#4
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My has it changed quickly. I still feel like a noob having gotten serious about wet shaving in early 2013. At the time, there was the established brands, the old school artisans (3 Sues, a few others) and the newer artisans - Mike's, Mystic Water, Stop Shoppe and QCS. You could easily get your mind around the state of the market, given that you could count the number of companies pretty easily. Now? Holy moly...I feel like for me personally, the market is already saturated. I only say this because I have enough soap for several years (like many) - and have pretty much stopped buying new ones. But hey, it still feels like the community is growing and with that brings new customers with dens to fill. If the community keeps growing, then there will be room for more soap makers. 

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 03-13-2015, 08:58 AM
#5
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I enjoy new products but am about at the end of buying for awhile. What I have is what I really like and I have so much of that the shave cabinet is about to fall off the wall. The secondary market is great for buyers bot very costly to sellers. I don't believe there is room for many more artisans. Our community is small and while newbies will be buying, my guess is the long time users are going to be slowing down considerably

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 03-13-2015, 09:54 AM
#6
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This is all very true. Supply is much greater than the current demand. I also don't see the market expanding fast enough to accommodate the influx of new artisans. I've stopped experimenting with new companies and only purchase new releases from a select few.

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 03-13-2015, 10:08 AM
#7
  • blzrfn
  • Butterscotch Bandit
  • Vancouver USA
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All good discussion gents, thank you.

One thing that I have stopped doing is ordering a surplus to achieve free shipping.  This used to be a good way to lower the cost because it was easy to sell the scents I chose not to keep.  Now the loss on the sale far exceeds the original price of shipping so I just order one or two that I think I will like or just samples if I'm really not sure.

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 03-13-2015, 10:23 AM
#8
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Great thread topic!

You have to just take a quick look over at basenotes.net to see that having an indefinite amount of choices does not limit how much people buy.  

I think we are bound to see more "artisan" soap makers who are, hopefully passionate about their craft and likely more corporate produced product lines such as AoS.  Men's grooming in general has exploded as a market and odds are that it is more than a passing fad.

Although recently I was guilty of this, I am not going to try to get wrapped up in the next big thing.  Once it was MdC, then it was another artisan soap maker...this seems to go on and on...


 

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 03-13-2015, 10:24 AM
#9
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This is in interesting question and while I don't have any specific knowledge of market size or saturation point it won't prevent me from speculating... Confused

I feel lucky that I have made the switch to using a straight razor and soaps at a time when there are so many great soaps and while we are a small community there are a lot of people shaving in the world. Even if you stick with disposable razors it seems that the vast superiority of the traditional soaps and creams could easily break into this larger market. Its more cost effective as long as you don't over buy and the performance is much better than any stuff from a can. Maybe I am overestimating peoples wiliness to spend a little more time preparing lather but perhaps a GMA spot on the 'latest trend' in shaving would be all it would take to make traditional shaving products a nation wide craze. Myself, I went from seeing shaving as a chore which I avoided at all costs to wishing my hair grew fast enough to shave 2x's a day. Maybe a little bit of marketing could open up this huge market? If not I can always dream...

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 03-13-2015, 11:21 AM
#10
  • Steelman
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This is what is so great about capitalism.  The quality products will survive. The inferior products will not.  The explosion of products only benefits us as the consumers.

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 03-13-2015, 11:29 AM
#11
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
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(03-13-2015, 11:21 AM)Steelman Wrote: This is what is so great about capitalism.  The quality products will survive. The inferior products will not.  The explosion of products only benefits us as the consumers.

Would that it were true, but recent experience shows that the inferior products often -- perhaps more often than not -- triumph.  Examples:
  • Superior Beta video cassette technology lost out to inferior VHS;
  • Superior IBM OS/2 operating system lost out to inferior Microsoft Win95;
  • More and more, superior multi-link and double-wishbone automobile front suspensions are losing out to inferior Macpherson strut designs.
Let us hope that at least some of the good artisan soaps survive the wave of chemistry-set shave soaps that we shall see if the fad gets popular enough to afford buying ads during the Super Bowl.

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 03-13-2015, 01:43 PM
#12
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The question posed by the OP is on the mind of all new soap manufacturers. It was first and foremost in my mind before I launched my soaps. Face it, it costs something to make and stock soaps and no artisan is rolling in money. I decided to not be an "also ran" but to go for the high ground. Hopefully that will set me apart from the crowd.

Time will tell if that pays off or not. Frankly, not everyone wants a top quality soap. When I started in with blade shaving I thought anyone who paid $20 or more for a soap was nuts, "How could a shave soap be worth "that much"?", was what went through my mind. Today I know better, but back then I didn't.

When the dust settles I guess we'll see. Good question and thread.

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 03-13-2015, 02:08 PM
#13
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Guess I should have added this to my original post. I don't want to offend any artisans but I notice in some areas of wet shaving its already getting kind of stale. Its getting to the point that a number of people all make a great product! Not that that's a bad thing. With soaps for instance its gotten to where you choose more by scent than anything since you know the shave quality between them is already good. Handles for brushes and razors anymore all seem the same.

I know form and function are a major thing. It has to be comfortable and sensible but still have that WOW factor. There are a couple that are thinking outside the box and being more unique but for the most part most you see from one is the same as what you see from the other. I feel anymore its who offers the better deal. I'm not saying there is a lack of talent or anything. I wish I had a fraction of the talents to do what they/you do. As Brian stated i'm sure this is also on the minds of the various artisans and figuring how to separate themselves and stand out more from others.

I want to see everyone be successful. I think it takes a lot of heart and a big set of cojones to step up, follow a dream, and do a lot that they/you do. I wish all the best of luck!

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 03-13-2015, 02:31 PM
#14
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All good points . As long as we keep the platform strong , the product will always be changing and improving

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 03-13-2015, 02:41 PM
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 I think there's room to grow, but I guess it all depends on how successful this "movement" is in attracting more of the general public, and how good we are as a community at evangelizing.  The fact that we're seeing DE stuff pop up in Walmart and Target indicates that someone's got some favorable market projections somewhere.

So there could be more room for soaps, even if the heavy users use less, as long as there's market growth.

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 03-13-2015, 03:06 PM
#16
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Interesting and great thread !

I own more soaps and creams tha I can use in 10+ years time, but I'm relatively new in the artisane market, and have tried to settle with 4 of the best artisanes currently - B&M, Cold River, Caties and RazoRock.

Time will tell if I'm going to slow down, but I actually did not buy that many products in 2014, but late 2014 and early here in 2015 I have been going crazy, buying 40+ soaps and creams, wjile only selling maybe 10.

I'm trying to maximise quality and minimize quantity - but with more than 180 creams and soaps in my den, there have to be a good deal of great quality soap and cream makers out there  Biggrin

I'm also into fragrances, and I see new fragrance brands pop up each month too. Some probably don't make that much money from it, but it seems once you have to production dialed in and made the start investment, it does not cost that much to stay in the business. So even if a soap maker does not sell that many soaps, he will still be able to continue in the business, maybe just have a longer delivery time, because he/she needs to get the money for the products in first before being able to produce and ship the products out.

If the soap/perfume is great enough, people will accept this waiting time.

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 03-13-2015, 07:08 PM
#17
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Key word is recent. I think once the hype is over from people wanting to try new things only a few brands will remain popular. I have tried numerous "artisan" soaps and found many of them decidedly amateur affairs. There is perhaps maybe 3-4 I've used that have been truly artisan, and were top notch in not only performance but scent and refinement. Artisan is defined by skill after all.  That of course requires experience. 

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 03-13-2015, 10:47 PM
#18
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Quote:So my question I pose to the board is how sustainable do you think the market is?  I can't imagine our niche market supporting all of these companies for the long term. 

The real question is how you define "the market."

If you limit it to those folks who are sufficiently enthused about wetshaving to participate in an online forum about it, then it is a bit of a niche group. (A very pleasant group at that.) On the other hand, if you consider that nearly every man needs to shave regularly, and a growing number of women are trying out traditional wetshaving techniques, all of a sudden you've got a potential market in the BILLIONS, which would be more than enough to keep every artisan you've ever heard of fully employed.

Speaking as a small soapmaker, I'm not trying to get to the point of buying Superbowl ads (nice though that would be). If I can get a handful of folks per week to decide that a handmade soap, scented only with essential oils instead of artificial fragrances, is worth buying, or to decide that they've always wanted to try out wetshaving and order a starter kit, great. My biggest issues have nothing to do with the size of the market, or the various other competitors (some of which I'm indirectly responsible for, since I started making my shaving soap with a How To thread on B&B that gave step by step instructions), but my own efforts and diligence. 

There are literally thousands of electronic and brick and mortar shaving shops and men's shops and barber shops across the country, and many times that across the world, all of them within reach of the postal service, so if I want to sell more soap, it's not my competitors blocking me from reaching out to them. 

Sometimes you end up helping grow the market, or expanding into new markets. In my case, my basic soap instructions have been put to use and modified by other makers, and an off the cuff online conversation with a Canadian machinist named James turned into his designing a a well regarded razor for me (the BBS-1) and then a few months later, starting his own razor company (Wolfman Razors). Right now, I've got a couple of ideas for future soaps, and on the table next to me, I've got a stack of ingredients that I'm going to use to work on developing a chamois cream for my cyclist friends, that may or may not turn into a new and separate line of products.

The niche is only as small as you're willing to allow it to be. If an artisan just wants to sell a few soaps to make sure there's enough $ for some burritos and the next order of essential oils, that's OK. If he or she wants to grow and diversify the product line and build it into a consumer package goods business, that's an option too. The limits are the artisan's goals and energy levels, and whether he or she is targeting a select group of the shaving cognoscenti, or the billions of earthlings who shave some of their faces and bodies some of the time (or both).

But don't feel bad if you need to hold off on a purchase or use up some of the extra soap you've already got. That just means we have to go back to the drawing board and develop something you just CAN'T resist!

Biggrin

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 03-14-2015, 02:53 AM
#19
  • VTMAX
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  • Woodstock, Vermont
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Great post John.  Really puts it all in perspective regarding the artisan shaving community right now.  We sometimes forget there is a whole world out there when I am wondering what Ravi, Ben & Celestino are going to be using this morning! Smile

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 03-14-2015, 04:57 AM
#20
  • Steelman
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I think the first artisan to specifically target women will make a fortune. (Think shave sticks with girly shapes & prints).  Let's face it guys...we all love our private time shaving.  Well...half the world is women.  And they shave too.  Some of them have crazy husbands/boyfriends that are into artisan shaving soaps and may want to share that passion...or share the bounty so as not to get thrown in the dog house!

just sayin'....it's a market waiting to get tapped.

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