Gillette vs. Harry's vs. Dollar Shave Club: An Overview

Gillette, Harry's, and Dollar Shave Club are engaged in a fierce battle over the market for subscriptions and home delivery of shaving products. The customer benefits of such clubs are convenience and discounts compared to individually purchased products in stores, making it an attractive proposition for many men. Each company offers different types of memberships/product subscriptions. This article examines the offerings of each company.

Key Takeaways

  • Dollar Shave Club was the first company to offer shaving club subscriptions.
  • Harry’s sells its products at upscale department stores like Barneys in New York City, in addition to offering a shaving club subscription.
  • Gillette Shave Club is the only service started by a publicly-traded company.

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club opened its doors in 2011 and operates out of Venice, California. Once a private company, Dollar Shave was purchased by Unilever in 2016 for approximately $1 billion. Unilever kept the club intact and it has remained a key player in the shave-subscription space with an estimated 4 million members, according to the company.

There are three basic subscription options: the Humble Twin, the 4X, and the Executive. The Humble Twin is a basic double-blade razor with a lubricating strip. A monthly subscription includes five cartridges and costs $1 plus $2 for shipping and handling. The 4X is a quad-blade razor with a full 90-degree pivot head that follows the face's curvature. This subscription includes four cartridges per month and costs $6, but shipping is free. Finally, the Executive is Dollar Shave Club's top-of-the-line razor with six blades, a special trimmer edge for detailing, and an extra-sturdy handle for improved grip. The subscription costs $9 per month with free shipping and comes with four cartridges.

Dollar Shave Club also offers a variety of personal care products. The Dr. Carver product line includes shaving cream, shaving butter, shaving lather, post-shaving cream, and repair serum for burns and ingrown hairs. Big Cloud products include face moisturizer, hand cream, and lip balm. For hair, the Boogie product line includes hair gel, hair paste, hair clay, hair fiber, and hair cream. The company also offers Fresh by Charlie, a disposable wipe infused with aloe and chamomile.

All new subscribers get a free handle in their first shipment, and the company offers discounted starter bundles that include related personal care products, such as shaving butter and post-shave cream. Members are free to change their subscription specifics or cancel the membership at any time.

None of the shaving clubs listed are privately held companies. All three were purchased by big-name companies with large stakes in personal grooming products.

Harry's

New York-based Harry's was co-founded by Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider in 2013 and owns its own razor factory in Germany since 2014. The factory, named Feintechnik, boasts a solid craft pedigree, and owning the factory gives the company full control of the production process, allowing it to make tweaks according to customer feedback.

As of May 2019, this autonomy may change. Why? Because Harry's was purchased by Edgewell Personal Care company for $1.37 billion in cash and stocks. The media has reported that the deal is slated to wrap up in 2020.

Harry's razors come in two styles, Truman and Winston. Truman sports the basic handle, which is offered free to new subscribers, while Winston is the premium option. Regular prices are $15 and $25, respectively. The subscription is based on the frequency of shaving, where the customer can choose from five to seven shaves per week, two to four shaves per week, or just one shave per week. Membership is flexible, and subscribers can cancel at any time.

Pricing depends on the shaving frequency. For example, a customer who shaves two to four times per week gets a package of eight cartridges every three months for $7.50 a month. He can add two bottles of shave gel for $15 a month, or two bottles of shave gel plus a 1.7-ounce bottle of post-shave balm for $19 a month. There is only one type of razor cartridge: five blades with a flex hinge and a lubricating strip.

Harry's personal care product line is narrower than that of Dollar Shave Club, and features shave cream, shave gel, post-shave balm, and daily face wash. The company also offers a travel kit and a razor stand. Harry's products are sold at J.Crew, Barneys, and Nordstrom, and the company recently opened a barbershop and retail store in New York City.

Gillette Shave Club

Procter & Gamble (P&G) acquired Gillette in 2005, making it something of an 800-pound gorilla compared to Harry's and Dollar Shave Club before they were acquired by larger companies. Razors have been one of P&G's most profitable areas, which is why the emergence of aggressive upstarts seizing market share prompted the company to start its own subscription model. It has dealt directly with customers since launching its own club in 2014.

Gillette offers three models: Mach 3 Turbo, Fusion ProGlide, and Fusion ProShield. The Mach 3 Turbo features three blades, a lubricating strip, and 10 micro fins intended to smooth the skin prior to the cut. The subscription sends five cartridges every four months for $17.50. The Fusion ProGlide has five blades, a more generous lubricating strip, a center blade stabilizer, and a trimmer edge. Its subscription provides four cartridges every four months for $18. Fusion ProShield also features five blades but includes a lubricating "frame" that applies lubrication both before and after each stroke, instead of just a lubrication strip. Its subscription gives four cartridges every four months for $22.49.

Fusion ProGlide and ProShield both have a handle using Gillette's patented Flexball technology, intended to make the shave closer and more natural. While P&G offers a number of personal care and grooming products, there are no options for bundling subscriptions for anything but razor cartridges in Gillette Shave Club.

Gillette has received criticism for its assumption that a single cartridge lasts a full month, which is unlikely for a daily shaver. The savings of its club compared to its store pricing is also marginal at best. Perhaps to combat the latter point, Gillette Shave Club enrolls all members in product giveaways and chances to win tickets for entertainment and sports events. Subscribers can change or cancel their memberships at any time, and Gillette Shave Club offers a money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers.