A growing love of beards forced P&G’s Gillette to shave off $8 billion

Champion-level beards.
Champion-level beards.
Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman
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Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company, beat earnings expectations this week, causing its stock to soar to a record high. But P&G also announced a $5.24 billion loss due to the struggles of its Gillette shaving business, in part because many hirsute men are ditching razors.

P&G reported an after-tax charge of $8 billion on its Gillette Shave Care line, reflecting accumulated currency devaluations since it acquired the business, and because many men have stopped shaving.

“Lower shaving frequency has reduced the size of the developed blades and razor’s market,” said Jon Moeller, P&G’s chief financial officer, in the post-earnings call with analysts, also blaming new, lower-priced competitors like Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s.

Sales across all of P&G’s categories (pdf) grew during the latest quarter, some by double digit percentages. Still, the grooming category lagged behind the rest, with just 4% growth.

P&G bought the now 118-year-old Gillette in 2005 for $57 billion, in what was the largest acquisition in the company’s history. But the 2010s have been a difficult decade for razor sales in the US, as social norms about shaving relax. “Today, men are not judged negatively when they skip a shave—it is not considered lazy or disrespectful,” a Gillette vice president told CNN last year.

The recent wave of bearded men (including this writer) had compelled Emine Saner at The Guardian to question in 2013 whether we’ve reached “Peak Beard.” “Beards, beards, beards. What riches. Except that even I have to admit I may be starting to tire a little of their ubiquity. I think this happened with The Apprentice”—Donald Trump’s former business reality show—“where half of the male candidates had beards—a sign that they have gone pretty much mainstream now,” she wrote.

Unfortunately for P&G, though, that declaration now seems premature.