Harry’s UK boss on its plan to become the ‘next gen of customer goods’

The DTC's upstart's move offline, while unprecedented, makes sense

Once confined to letterboxes, direct-to-consumer brand (DTC) Harry’s Razors can now be found on shelves in Boots and Sainsbury’s. As it gears up for new ownership under Wilkinson Sword, its UK general manager Matt Hiscock reveals how it plans to further disrupt the consumer goods market.

Having made moves into bricks and mortar in the US with launches in Walmart and Target, Harry’s Razors has seen promising results after striking a deal with Boots in April to do the same in the UK.

With products now available across 300 stores, Hiscock declines to give figures but says the brand has been performing “really well”. The promise of the pilot has even led to a further expansion into 400 Sainsbury’s stores up and down the UK “following a demand from customers to be in the grocery environment”.

“They felt like a really good fit for us,” he explains, pointing to the retailer’s recent push into beauty and personal care - which is seeing it trial dedicated beauty aisles, an expanded range of products and specially trained assistants in eight major stores – as a big selling point.

The DTC upstart's move offline, while unprecedented, makes sense. It’s allowing Harry’s to reach as many men as possible, prompting them to put their razors in their basket instead of a Bic or a Gillette in the process.

Sales will be a key KPI for Harry’s at it strengthens its foothold on the traditional retail market, but Hiscock admits that measuring success is more “multifaceted” than that.

“We’ll look at the business impact, as well at the category impact for the retailer. We’ll also consider consumer impact and how consumers are finding us on the shelf as well as awareness: we’ll try and look at as many touch-points as we can.”

The 'next gen' of consumer goods

Harry’s, which is among a growing throng of brands offering cut-price razors for men and products for women under its Flamingo line, grew its revenues by 250% between 2017 and 2018 in the UK and claims to reach 10 million men globally.

The business has captured around 2% of the $2.8bn men's shaving industry since its founding in 2013, according to market research firm Euromonitor.

Its advertising has been firmly focused on men’s issues and mental health, with the brand tapping England captain Harry Kane for a spot to rival Gillette’s take on toxic masculinity airing last summer.

Harry’s direct relationship with consumers combined with these numbers attracted the attention of Wilkinson Sword’s owner Edgewell Personal Care which snapped up the business for a cool $1.3bn in May of this year.

The deal (which is not yet closed) echoes Unilever's purchase of Harry's rival Dollar Shave Club for the same price in 2016. The latter, as evidenced by a recent Porn Hub advertising debacle, is still navigating the tight rope between marketing and operating as a startup despite being owned by a conglomerate with its own vision for the brand.

With the Edgewell sale still in the balance, Hiscock shirks off concerns that the company culture or strategy will change under its new owner. But, in a world where FMGCs are facing the threat of being usurped by their faster moving DTC rivals, the former Boden marketer has spotted an opportunity.

“What we are excited about, is that the combination of our two businesses will let us accelerate and become a next-generation consumer goods or men's care platform. Hopefully coming together will enable us to do that,” he says.

Along with its venture into retail and looming internal changes, Harry’s has also been fixed on expanding its product range as it looks to up potential revenue streams.

The brand’s combined shower and shave gel launched via an all-singing ad in the US last year and reached UK shores earlier this month. The product, along with its two-in-one shampoo is on sale now at Boots and Hiscock hints that skincare is the next frontier for Harry’s.

“[We’re looking at] moisturisers. We’re listening to our customers and figuring out where we can make a difference to their experience,” he said. Hair will also be a big focus, with styling products already on shelves that Harry’s “just hasn’t shouted about yet”.

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