Gillette don’t want to talk to me

Petersburg Products International factory in Russia

Gillette make fantastic double edged (DE) razor blades at the Petersburg Products International (PPI) factory in Russia that they (or their parent Procter & Gamble) 65% own. But Gillette also make two lines of patent protected system razors, the Guard and the Fusion, which are vastly more profitable. Recently there has been some worry in shaving circles about the future of the many Gillette DE brands, reinforced when the much loved Iridium blade suddenly disappeared with no warning. The dreaded shavepocalypse. So I thought I would ask them for some information.

Usually a company is very happy to get product information out to their customers, it is called marketing communications and they have special staff whose job it is to do this. The lady doing this job at PPI is Galina Petrenko. I sent her the following email:

from Bruce Everiss
to pg_ceemeaconsumerrelations@mailnj.custhelp.com
date 19 January 2011 08:02
subject For Galina Petrenko re Double edged blades
mailed-by xxxxxx

19 Jan (14 days ago)

Hi Galina,

I run the traditional shaving blog Bruce on Shaving http://www.bruceonshaving.com/ and the Pogonotomy forum http://pogonotomy.proboards.com/index.cgi so have a very keen interest in traditional shaving using double edged blades. PPI make what are widely considered to be the best double edged blades that can be bought so there is a lot of interest in what you are doing. I personally have many of the different sorts of blade that you make. However there is a great lack of information about what PPI are doing with double edged blades.

I was wondering if you could be so kind as to answer just a few simple questions about PPI. Your answers would be of great interest to many traditional shavers around the world.

1) You produce many different brands of blades. These include Astra, Sputnik, Permasharp, Polsilver, Rotbart, Nacet, Minora and the several different variations of the Gillette brand. Is it possible to have a definitive list from you of your DE brands?

2) Are all these different blades engineered the same in terms of steel, grind, coatings etc. Or are they all different to one another? Or do you have a small number of variations that are packaged under different brand names for different markets? If so which blades are the same?

3) The stainless razor steel you use is excellent, it will hold a good edge for a long time. Is this Swedish steel? If not what nationality is it?

4) There is a huge resurgence in interest in double edged shaving in the West. The number of enthusiasts is growing rapidly. Is PPI aware of this and does it have plans to look after such enthusiasts?

5) The Iridium blade was a favourite amongst double edged shaving enthusiasts in the West. However it is currently unavailable for us to buy. When will it be available again?

Thank you very much in advance for your time and trouble in answering this,

Kind Regards,

Bruce Everiss

And the response, after two weeks, is a big fat zero. Now Galina might be on her annual vacation, which would be skiing at this time of year. Or maybe it is taking her time to collate the information. But I doubt both of these, I think that they just don’t want to talk to me. And you can see why, to them DE blades must be a low margin commodity compared with their highly priced and high profit margin cartridge razors where they have a patent protected monopoly. So why give publicity to something they have openly said that they are trying to replace? It was just wishful thinking to expect them to actually give answers.

Winter Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

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13 comments ↓

#1 kenstee on 02.02.11 at 4:15 pm

Don’t take it personally. Some of your questions were related to proprietary manufacturing techniques and probably will not be addressed. In addition, you are not from a well-known media outlet so there is probably some suspicion you are just conducting some market research for a competitor. Also, Galina is just a low level functionary. You may have more success by contacting P&G HQ in Cincinnati, Ohio USA.

#2 Ed on 02.02.11 at 5:25 pm

Anyway, this is not a polite way of communication. She or PPI could just answer “Thank you for your interest but these are all corporate secrets, sorry”.

#3 Mike on 02.02.11 at 6:51 pm

Since they are still producing DE blades there must be SOME profit in it. Thus, ignoring these inquiries doesn’t seem to be a good public relations strategy. They could have checked out bruceonshaving.com and seen that it is promoting their products and not overly harsh on cartridge razors.

#4 Tbone on 02.02.11 at 9:10 pm

Even if kenstee is right regarding items 1-3, items 4 and 5 certainly merited a response.

#5 Craig Bell on 02.02.11 at 11:53 pm

I have a slightly different view. Given the number of DE users worldwide, basic economics suggests that some bright soul will figure out a way to make the blade production business profitable — perhaps downsizing, or fewer brands, or a modest price increase, or combination of the above, or some other strategy altogether. If Gillette doesn’t want to do it, then maybe somebody else will buy their 65% stake and revamp the business and match production to demand such that the business can be efficient and profitable. Look at Chevrolet and Ford; they were late recognizing the market shift, but did reinvent themselves and are profitable again.

#6 oldways on 02.03.11 at 1:32 am

Thanks for trying, Bruce! In some of these big companies, two weeks would be just getting started to think about replying. But with email, there’s no excuse for such rudeness. “We have received your message and will reply when possible” is not so difficult.

#7 kenstee on 02.04.11 at 1:58 pm

@Tbone

“Even if kenstee is right regarding items 1-3, items 4 and 5 certainly merited a response.”

Actually, they should not be expected to share their strategic plans with anybody. To me. all of these questions fall within these bounds. So, I can see their POV of refusing to answer.

#8 Oleg on 02.12.11 at 10:26 pm

Bruce, it might be as simple as that she doesn’t know English…
Do you want me to retype your letter in Russian and you could email it to her again? I bet you will get a quicker response :)

#9 Bruce on 02.13.11 at 12:03 pm

@Oleg

Thanks for that. Galina has replied to other people’s emails in English in the past. In fact I think she is a translator.

#10 Dan on 03.27.11 at 11:32 am

Hey Bruce, I really admire your efforts trying to establish what’s up with Iridiums. I really wanna try them so please keep us updated if you come across any info about new supplies etc. All the best, Dan.

#11 Tim Barrow on 07.14.11 at 6:57 am

Maybe you could have contacted Gillette via their free phone number found on their canned stuff.

#12 iridium blades on 09.29.12 at 7:23 pm

I would appear that Super iridiums are back on the market,just ordered a supply from bullgooseshaving.net.Not cheap though and with added postage,but I just have to try them to see if they are as good as people say

#13 robin c bracey on 05.01.13 at 1:05 pm

maybe gillette will change slightly towards double edge blades in the future, many men are changing shaving habits.In the last few weeks myself and some men in my section of France have ceased to purchase cartridges for these plastic battery gimmicks because of the stupid high price they want.One changed from electric having found it not to his liking anymore,he went to double edged ,not wanting to pay cartidge prices.I had been using a razorpit to ease the cost,but followed him and bought a Tradere and Ikon d/E razor.I had forgotten how close you can get with these types.So i dont follow the sales talk,i save money, i get a better shave.And if Gillette continue to produce good d/e blades i will purchase them,if not somebody will !!

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