Much like fellow scent-enhancers mints and gum, demand for deodorant and antiperspirant declined in 2020. The need to smell good, it seems, doesn’t hold much sway in the age of social distancing, remote work and Disney+.
During the early days of panic buying in March, year-over-year sales of deodorant and antiperspirant jumped 14%, according to figures from Nielsen. When the nation went into lockdown the following month, purchase levels fell into negative territory, and have remained there ever since.
It’s in this milieu that men’s grooming brand Harry’s is entering a new product category: deodorant and antiperspirant.
Pandemic wasn’t a factor on release
The young company, known for its razors, but also its hair and shower products, has debuted a line of stench-fighting items that come in the scents fig, shiso, stone and redwood—the same as its line of body wash.
To help shoppers pick the best option and bypass any confusion over the difference between deodorant and antiperspirant, Harry’s has arranged its new products into three categories: odor control, odor and sweat control, and odor and enhanced sweat control.
Jaime Crespo, a general manager at Harry’s, said the line extension has been in development for two years, and that the pandemic neither sped up nor slowed down its scheduled release date.
While sales of deodorant and antiperspirant are down overall, Harry’s, which reported more than $350 million in revenue last year, believes its offerings have a shot at success due to the brand’s strong connection with its customers. Crespo said fans have been asking Harry’s to make deodorant and antiperspirant for years now. Around 1,600 people have either called, emailed or posted on social media telling the brand to enter the space, making deodorant and antiperspirant its most requested product category—by a lot.
“We have a direct relationship with consumers, and that’s what inspires our innovation,” Crespo said. “That’s what inspires our proposition. That’s what inspires our communication.”
A good position to steal market share
With more people buying goods online these days, the digitally native Harry’s is also in a decent position to steal market share from the industry heavyweights, such as Procter & Gamble (Old Spice, Gillette) and Unilever (Dove, Degree). Last month, WPP’s media agency network GroupM released a report estimating that the pandemic-fueled shift toward online shopping will push global e-commerce to $7 trillion by 2024, accounting for a quarter of total retail sales.
This matters for digitally native challenger brands because while shoppers have traditionally been limited to what’s on a physical shelf in their local grocery store or pharmacy chain, the internet provides endless shelves to browse and opportunities to discover new products. So, any movement in this direction helps build awareness.
“Once Covid is over and the category itself picks back up again, they could be in a better position than the incumbents that weren’t able to innovate and build that direct connection with the consumer,” Andrew Goletka, a managing partner at venture capital firm Coefficient Capital, said.
The toilet paper effect
Although not exactly the same, a similar situation is currently playing out with toilet paper. Amid shortages of the stuff, members of the public going online to look for alternatives. Toilet paper startups that make their products with sustainable materials, such as bamboo, are seeing sales soar.
Early last year, CPG manufacturer Edgewell Personal Care, which owns Schick, backed away from its attempt to acquire Harry’s for $1.37 billion after the Federal Trade Commission moved to block the transaction over concerns that the merger would hinder competition and innovation. More recently, P&G’s attempted acquisition of direct-to-consumer razor brand Billie met a similar fate following an FTC lawsuit.