The shave is proving harder to kill than John McClane in "Die Hard."
Less than two years ago, the growing ubiquity of hirsute men — and the resulting decline in razor blade sales — led The Washington Post to make a dramatic declaration that beards were "killing the shaving industry." Indeed, even Gillette parent Procter & Gamble groused that the beard trend was detrimental to sales, which at the time were down double digits.
What a difference a year makes. Despite beards being as popular as ever, discount razor blade sales are on the rise — which suggests shaving is learning to coexist happily with the boom in facial hair. In fact, Internet businesses that cater to beard grooming have mushroomed concomitantly in the last few years with web sales of razors.
"The manual shaving category grew by 101 percent over the past two years, which all brands have benefited from," Taylor Stanton, marketing & communications Manager at Slice Intelligence told CNBC in response to an emailed inquiry.
"The online channel has also made it possible for new players like Bevel to emerge and offer shaving products to those who have been underserved by the typical selection at the local grocery store or big box retailer," Stanton added.
Recent data suggest shavers are moving to blades sold online — which are far cheaper than premium brands sold by Schick and Gillette. Surging blade sales on the web recently led the latter to start its own online club, while Unilever recently moved to buy start-up Dollar Shave Club for an estimated $1 billion.
"Analyzing the online market share of shaving companies doesn't tell the full story. The shave clubs, lead by Dollar Shave Club, completely changed how consumers buy razors," Stanton told CNBC.
In a new research report, Slice Intelligence said that with the Dollar Shave acquisition, competitor Harry's "is the razor company to watch." The shaving upstart is actually growing faster year over year than Dollar Shave, Slice says, and is the third-largest shaving brand in the U.S. behind Dollar Shave and Gillette.
The latter two comprised "three-quarters of all sales last year. Still, given Harry's high growth rate, it's already made a successful sortie on Gillette, Dorco and Schick's market share," Slice's analysts wrote in a new report on the breakneck growth of online shaving clubs.