Gillette’s Newest Rival Is Sleek, Disruptive—and Now in Target
(Bloomberg) -- Another nimble digital native is coming to disrupt consumer care.
Flamingo, a New York-based start-up born from Harry’s Inc. that’s been selling hair removal products for women online since October, has a deal to sell its razors, wax strips, lotions and gels from Target Corp.’s shelves starting Monday.
The tie-up positions Flamingo as a direct threat to Procter & Gamble Co., which has sold Gillette Venus razors for women since 2001 and whose men’s shaving lines are facing new competition from the likes of Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. And it’s a big sector: Each year, women spend $1.1 billion on razors and blades in the U.S., according to 2017 statistics from Euromonitor. Tack on $179 million for hair removers and bleaches, and $141 million in pre-shave products like lotions or foams, and you’re looking at a $1.4 billion women’s hair-removal market up for grabs.
Razors dominated the first round of grooming disruption from plucky upstarts and subscription blade re-fill services, but Flamingo says 70 percent of women use more than one method to remove hair. That's why its line-up hitting Target stores also includes wax strips. They can even remove short hairs, avoiding the need to wait for regrowth, and are sourced from a secret location in Spain.
“Wax was a sleeper hit,” says Allie Melnick, 34-year old general manager of Flamingo who built the brand along with Brittania Boey after the two met as colleagues at Harry’s in 2013. From a “hairy family,” Melnick says she’d never found a satisfying way of dealing with body hair. So she and Boey began working on a women’s line for Harry’s in earnest by 2016, and had soon tested 40 different handle shapes for razors and 12 different wax formulations.
When it came to wax, many products didn’t remove hair, or left a sticky mess. That is, until Boey found a technique in Spain—though they won’t say where specifically, citing competitive concerns. Rolling up a dress sleeve in Flamingo’s Soho offices, Melnick demonstrates how the band-aid sized, wavy-edged paper strips, warmed in hand, cleanly remove even short hair growth, without leaving stickiness.
When the company launched in October, even its strong projections for the wax were surpassed. “Within the first two weeks, we sold out of face wax strips that were supposed to last six months. Almost a third of everyone who came in wanted to try wax,” Melnick says. Flamingo had to fly in new product to meet consumer demands, she says.
Now, with the Target roll-out, those wax strips, Flamingo’s pastel-hued razors and its shave gel products will get 4 feet of custom shelving at 1,800 locations, uniting women’s hair removal needs all in one place, rather than having them scattered throughout the store.
For Target, it’s another refresh to its shelves, which already contain brands born online like Native, quip, Casper—and razors from Flamingo’s parent, Harry’s.
“Target is always looking for exciting digitally native brands to bring to our guests,” Christina Hennington, a senior vice president at Target, said in an emailed statement. “First Harry’s launched in 2016, wowing our male guests, and now we can’t wait for our female guests to try Flamingo.”
Jeff Raider, a co-founder of Harry’s who gave Melnick and Boey the free rein to develop Flamingo, says the deal is yet another example of how digital disruption is coming at a faster pace than anticipated in consumer products. Much larger rival P&G, which has tried to revive its men’s shaving business with the controversial “Best a Man Can Be” ad, announced in late January that it would be launching its own new women’s shave product, though it didn't give details.
P&G says its Venus brand is more than double the size of its closest competitor when it comes to women's shaving. “It was a first brand that designed a razor with her in mind,” said P&G spokeswoman Kara Buckley. P&G doesn't sell waxes, bleaches or any cream hair removers, but last year it launched Venus Face Perfection, a tool that removes hair at the root. Last year, Gillette launched a direct-to-consumer product for women, called Venus Direct.
Still, there’s room for more products, Raider says. Some other women’s hair removal products seemed like an afterthought to men’s, and were usually priced higher, which Flamingo won’t be, he says.
“Our vision was one that would stand alone,” he said. “We always knew we wanted a product for women. But we didn’t want to just call it Sally’s.”
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