JCR: Why now for the men’s grooming market?
OS: Because now, for the first time in history, young urban and suburban guys all over the planet literally are increasingly interested in taking better care of themselves, both for functional – better looking skin – emotional – I feel great – and even self-expressive – that brand reflects who I am – reasons.
JCR: What are the challenges in reaching contemporary men?
OS: Younger guys these days are more experimental when trying new brands or products, and more interested in shopping, and that’s good because it opens up more venues for starting the grooming dialogue. However, they are also more cynical about being subject to overt marketing efforts that push too hard or intrude on their lifestyle. You’ve got to find that balance.
JCR: Maintenance Matters, says your tag line. Who’s the guy?
OS: We’re interested in giving the end-user a totally new experience in prep, and over time, turning that user into a die-hard Sharps guy (or girl). Sharps is prep for guys. We don’t like the notion of grooming that’s what our fathers do and it feels old and stuffy – no disrespect. Prep on the other hand is young, relaxed, American, flexible; it’s about individual style. Anyone who can relate to this idea is who we are reaching out to.
JCR: How do products and marketing approaches differ in products for men of color? Is Sharps speaking to this audience?
OS: Most guys have the same basic personal care needs but certain ethnic groups have specific challenges. For some, it’s super fair, sun-sensitive skin. For others, it’s razor bumps and ingrown hairs or the appearance of dark circles under the eyes. It goes on and on. So yes, you need to be aware of these problems and how to treat them. As a result, our shave products contain specific botanical ingredients to combat skin problems endemic to blacks, Latinos, and white boys like me. So we like to think Sharps can work for most guys, regardless of skin color. As for marketing, we’ve never considered marketing differently to one group of guys versus another. Our view is that you’re either into prep or you’re not.
JCR: What are some of the markets driving men’s grooming products?
OS: Product wise, skin care is growing the fastest: eye gels, moisturizers, scrubs, sun protection, self-tanners, etc. Older guys care about treating the visible signs of aging as well as hair coloring and loss. We think there’s potential in indie men’s fragrances as well. Most of the growth appears to be occurring in the specialty retail channels and online. Key international growth markets include Canada, Scandinavia, the UK, Germany, France, China, and Japan.
JCR: How do you view cosmetic surgery as an option for men?
OS: We’re kind of indifferent… it’s not our thing, but I can understand why people do it, after a bad accident, etc. As for minor cosmetic procedures, whatever makes you happy.
JCR: Many men claim to feel uncomfortable in spas and salons. How is Sharps getting up close and learning directly from men regarding their needs and appearance?
OS: We do shave events, work with new-school barbers in NY and LA, Larry cuts hair all over town – get in line! Co-oping with other lifestyle brands, such as Triple 5, Burton, Colette, and music labels is another way to get up close and personal. We also spend a lot of time talking to our retail partners and working on the selling floor, which is invaluable. Best of all, if you get out there and talk to guys in bars or online, you’ll find out pretty quickly what they care about.
JCR: What’s the forecast for the coming holiday season on sales for men’s grooming products?
OS: We think that this will be the biggest holiday season ever for men’s grooming. Some of our retailers are already having trouble getting stock from vendors! Men are stepping up in a big way and women are joining in too, now that “grooming” has become a desirable gifting category. Bring it on, we’re prepped and ready!
Michael Cohen conducted this interview.