In fact, although the beard trend has hit the men’s shaving sector by £72m, it’s still worth around £2.2bn a year, according to market analysts IRI.
David Hildrew, a former marine who saw active duty in the Falklands, got so bored with the daily chore that most men put themselves through that he began to look around for something that would make it quicker and easier.
In particular, he suffers from what he calls a “blue beard” – in other words a particularly tough beard, in contrast to those he dismisses as the “bum fluff brigade”.
Finding nothing beyond the usual shaving and grooming products, Hildrew set about creating his own. The Bluebeards Revenge range includes a paraben free, premium quality shaving cream, brushless shaving solution and post-shave balm with added ingredients that specifically reduce the appearance of hair growth and combat tough stubble.
“We define a “blue beard” as someone who suffers from very tough beard growth, someone who is fed up to the back teeth with a five o’clock shadow appearing before lunch,” he explained.
“The Bluebeards Revenge brand is all about taking ‘revenge’ on this sandpaper-tough stubble that can blunt the edge of even the keenest razor. Of course, we have now evolved into other areas of male grooming, but our macho messaging is a constant theme.”
The key ingredient is Decelerine, which reduces beard growth therefore reducing the need to shave so often. It also helps the skin to recover post shave. In tests, Decelerine showed a 30 per cent decrease in hair length as well as a 16 per cent reduction in hair density after 60 days.
Originally, Hildrew introduced the Bluebeards range into his existing online store – but such was demand that he launched a separate site. The Bluebeards Revenge store also now sells other toiletries and shaving products aimed at what the brand shamelessly calls “real men”.
“It’s great to see a booming male grooming industry,” explained Hildrew, whose previous business was a survival training school. “There’s less of a taboo around male grooming and it’s become the norm to moisturise, for example.”
In an industry dominated by a few big players, an SME can find it tough to compete. “They need a strong point of difference and character,” advised Hildrew. “Our brand tells a story, it has a personality that people can relate to and buy into. You need to get across the fact you’re different from those highly corporate, faceless organisations. It’s tricky but I believe we do it well.”
He went on to say: “We stand out in a very conservative market. We have a strong point of difference and our branding is spot on. People can relate to us and this means that we have built up a very loyal customer base. We’ve made male grooming cool and edgy and guys are not embarrassed to have our products in their bathroom. We also invest heavily in PR and marketing and really try and push the boundaries.”
Innovation is essential too. “This keeps the interest in the brand high. We also work very closely with our ambassadors and consumers to create new products that they want.”
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Over the last year Hildrew has managed to invest £1m into the business, but financing has been a challenge, he has found. In particular, as an early startup, without its current market penetration the Bluebeards Revenge was in a precarious position and he advised other SMEs to secure proper funding from the start.
“We very much live every day hand to mouth,” he added. “Of course cash flow can be an issue especially in those quieter periods. But being in total control allows me to ensure that my personality is reflected fully on the brand. I would hate for it to get watered down or be made to look highly corporate”
First winning a coveted male grooming award from FHM magazine, and then being accepted by two major UK trade wholesalers – Sally’s Salon Services and Capital Hair – provided the company with a significant boost. “This helped to elevate us to that next level and people started to take us more seriously as a result,” Hidrew said.
The Devon-based company, which will turnover around £3m for the year 2015/2016, is now expanding its range and developing its brand. “We’ve started to move from a shaving centric brand into the complete male grooming range,” he explained. “This will continue with the addition of a number of new hair and beard products in 2016. I’m also looking to make us a lifestyle brand.”
To this end Hildrew has created its own beer – a neat reverse of the Carlsberg brand – which launched its own grooming range this year. Last month, the Bluebeard’s Revenge unveiled The Ultimate Pale Ale, the result of result of a partnership with Hunter’s Brewery, which is also situated in Devon. “I want to continue down this path,” commented Hildrew. “This will help to bring the brand to a new audience and we should be able to piggyback of it.”
The beard craze will almost certainly go the way of most fashions, prompting more “blue beards” and other men to look again for a good shaving products. As for Hildrew’s other line – he must be reassured that beer is unlikely ever to go out of fashion.
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