In November last year a strange phenomenon gripped the male population as the streets filled with Freddy Mercury lookalikes. But it wasn't because a Queen convention had hit town, rather men - both young and old - were seen sporting moustaches in a range of styles from the demure to the outlandish.
They were raising money for The Prostate Cancer Charity as November was dubbed "Movember" as men grew their "Mos". Wilkinson Sword put £2m into sponsoring the event which proved a highly inventive form of charity fundraising.
For the other 11 months of the year hair removal for men (and women) is an entrenched part of their grooming routines in the UK. Nine in ten men use razors or shavers while eight in ten women buy hair removers or razors according to TGI data.
For many years marketing and new product development in the men's category focused on the "more blades the better" tenet and while this stimulated sales, recession-hit 2009 saw heavy promotional discounting which has made an inevitable dent. As a consequence market value fell by 3% in 2009 to reach £523 million according to Mintel.
Unit sales have held strong and this has been helped by manufacturers' continuing investment in marketing communications.
More than half (56%) of the shaving and depilatories market is made up of wet shave hardware although this segment has been hit by declining razor blade sales. Electric and battery shavers and epilators sales have remained static.
Adding blades as a method of improving the shave can clearly only go on for a finite number of launches; so much of the NPD focus in 2009 was on botanical and herbal ingredients in shaving preparations rather than performance in hardware. Where hardware was updated it has tended to involve pivot technology and multi-functionality such as razors and trimmers, or razors and shaving preparations.
Price discounting has tested brand loyalty: although half of users claim to always buy the same brand more than a quarter buy whatever is cheapest and a fifth go for the brand on promotion.
Promotions may have helped encourage new handle purchases but as they usually come with free blades it has hit sales of the blades.
There is some seasonality as women in particular are more likely to buy hair removal products when their legs and arms are on show or they will be bikini-clad on the beach.
Recent fashion trends for men have impacted the market. Pitt and David Beckham adopting a bearded look may have helped facial hair gain popularity but the beards are invariably still groomed so some purchases in this category are maintained. And as men go bald the fashion for the "comb over" has made way for the shaved-head look.
This sector includes some very strong brands that engender loyalty such as Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Philips and Braun.
Procter & Gamble's Gillette is the leading razors and blades brand and was further boosted in 2008 when it launched Breeze, a women's razor with built-in gel bars. Its men's Fusion razor has continued to be popular. Gillette heavily supports its brands and uses high profile sporting stars to endorse its products. However the revelations about the private life of Tiger Woods have meant his presence in its advertising has diminished in recent months.
Wilkinson Sword's key brand is the Quattro Titanium Precision razor, launched in 2008, and expanded since. The women's version of Quattro is the leading female razor system in terms of value. Last year it added Quattro for Women Bikini 2 in 1 Razor which has the added benefit of a battery-operated bikini trimmer.
King of Shaves used its success in the preparations side of the business to extend into the hardware market in 2008 with its Azor razor and last year added a women's version.
The aging population is a bonus to this market as the over-65s are typically heavier users of shaving products. However the proportion of men shaving once a day is falling and if the trends seen among younger men continue as they age, then heavy use will be curtailed.
By 2014 sales of shaving products and depilatories are expected to reach £600m, a 15% increase on 2009 according to Mintel. When inflation is taken into account this is a value rise of 7% over the next five years.