Thursday, March 27, 2008

How Many Blades Can Gillette and Schick Fit on a Razor? When will this growth end?

Have you ever noticed that the number of blades on a safety razor have been increasing at an exponential pace? When will this growth end? How many blades will we have on a razor in the future? When will the arms race between Gillette and Schick end?

The two main players in the Safety Razor market are Gillette (owned by Procter and Gamble (PG)) with the largest market share (70% as of 2003) of the global wet shaving market, and Schick (owned by Energizer Holdings (ENR)), a distant 2nd in market share (18% as of 2003).

In order to achieve greater growth, both companies need to innovate, create new products and provide an opportunity to sell more expensive razor blade cartridges. In the recent past, the companies have increasingly added more razors per cartridge.

In the chart above, we notice the exponential growth of the number of blades per cartridge.

Razor Blade History
  1. 1895: 1 Blade: Gillette Safety Razor
  2. 1971: 2 Blades: Gillette Trac II
  3. 1998: 3 Blades: Gillette Mach3
  4. 2004: 4 Blades: Schick Quattro
  5. 2007: 5 Blades: Gillette Fusion

At this rate, will we appear to have infinite number of blades on a razor cartridge in the future.

But is this realistic? The exponential growth of blades in a razor cartridge will eventually end. Does the consumer really notice the difference right now between a five blade razor and an inexpensive two blade razor?

So long as the companies innovate and convince consumers to pay more for the more expensive products, Gillette and Schick will do fine. However, the two companies will need to start finding new ways to innovate without having to put more blades on a razor cartridge. I don't think consumers will really notice the difference between a ten blade razor cartridge and a four blade one.

There is no Moore's Law for Razor Blades, and Gillette and Schick better start thinking of new ways to innovate to maintain their growth.

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