Regular readers here will know of Petersburg Products International, the factories near St Petersburg airport in Russia that are 65% owned by Procter & Gamble where about a dozen of the very best brands of double edged (DE) razor blades are made.These include Astra, Sputnik, Permasharp, Polsilver, Rotbart, Nacet, Minora and the several different variations of the Gillette brand.
Just recently they stopped manufacturing the Iridium blade, a favourite of the traditional shaving community, which was also made there. When the rumour about this spread the remaining stocks worldwide sold out in one day.
It makes very great sense for Procter & Gamble to get out of the low margin, commodity, DE blade market. They have just introduced the single bladed, patent protected Guard system razor that is aimed directly at users of DE blades in the developing world and they have said directly that they aim to convert large numbers of users over.
Against this background it is interesting that a friend of a real shaving enthusiast currently in Russia is scouring the retail outlets for blades. Here are a couple of quotes from what he has written on a forum: “they cannot get hold of their favourite Astra anymore” and “Sputnik is slowly disappearing“.
You would expect Russia to feel any discontinuation of production first because they have the shortest supply lines to the factory. So has production of these two brands also stopped? And what about all the other brands made there?
Just to be safe I just bought another 150 Astra Superior Platinum blades. An insurance policy.
99% of blades made in St. Petersburg do not go to Russian market. Only Sputnik and Gillette Rubie.
Ok, I just had a conversation on the phone with both Petersburg and Moscow offices of P&G in Russia. They stated that they do not have any intents to close the factory or stop producing these blades. “It is official comment of Procter&Gamble on your question”.
Good news if true.
But they are hardly likely to tell a random phone enquiry their marketing/product strategy secrets.
They didn’t tell anyone they were stopping the Iridiums did they?
IMHO with PPI and their DE blade brands it is not a case of “if” it is a case of “when” production stops.
Bruce, no reason to raise the panic. I am not a random phone enquirer. I called them by purpose and in regards of my company’s interests as a legal entity. Now I wait for their answers to my other questions and once they contact me I ask them about the Irridiums again.
P.S.: They also told me that I am not the first person asking them. I do not see a reason why they would tell me that everything is fine while shutting down the line. Let’s just wait.
Great blog Bruce! Not to worry – if P&G exits, their partners in St. Petersburg will probably keep making the blades and worst case scenario might have to change some brand names. Just out of curiosity, do you happen to have a rough idea of the size of the DE market in the United States? I came across something recently stating that Gillette had 80% and Schick-Wilkinson had 10% of the non-electric shaving market. Let us assume all, or effectively all, of the aforementioned market share is in the form of shaving systems like sensor, mach3, fusion, quattro, hydro, etc. That leaves 10% of the overall US market. What percentage of that would you say is DE? Do you have any ideas on revenues? Certainly general retailers (in North America anyway) devote almost zero space to DE blades and safety razors. Also, do you see a path to DE shaving taking serious share? You can probably pick up a decent DE razor blade like the supermax for 2 cents, compared to $5 for a single fusion cartridge….that is 250 times more expensive! (The price of a safety razor is low to begin with and amortized over even a short period of time the cost works out to zero.) Any thoughts you have on the above would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Bruce.
Personally, I find geogaga’s response quite interesting. But, the information he presents is not exactly highly credible. He’s probably not done business in Russia. The truth – shall we say – can be quite illusive. In addition, it is not in St. Petersberg’s or P&Gs interest to reveal corporate strategy to some guy on the phone. If geogaga was from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times or BusinessWeek I might feel differently. But, let’s get real. With due respect, he’s just some shave site blogger. Take this as you will.
ADDENDUM TO MY POST: Actually geogaga is not a blogger. He’s just some guy who posted here and on The Shave Den. Does he seriously believe anyone with a brain is going to revel their long-term corporate strategy to him? Not to mention that the PR and Public Affairs people at these places are the LAST people to know about the inner workings and long-term strategic decisions of the companies they work for? So, the reality is we know absolutely no more than we did before his posting. Sorry folks………..
Buy 10,000 blades and hedge – it will take up about as much space as a single box of laundry soap.
These guys did not get big by revealing their business plan. To coin a phrase “you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette ” In my own business world we seldom divulge our business plans to random callers over the telephone. We will see……..
Guys, you all try to believe in conspiracy theory. I did not guarantee they won’t stop producing these blades. I just phoned them and received answers to my questions. There gave no proof they won’t except of the “official statement”. But those sellers who wrote “DISCONTINUED” do not give their proof either. What is going on here is mass panic that warms up the demand for Iridiums. I am a bit on a calm side. Even if they stop producing them. Big deal…
That’s not it at all. Who’s said or implied anything about any conspiracies? Bruce – from all I’ve seen – is simply reporting factual information and observations. No more and no less. And I’m just saying you did not speak to any credible sources. I work in corporate settings and believe me all you spoke with were low level people with no information. They just gave you “the company line.” Which incidentally is their job. I agree about it’s no big deal if any specific blade is discontinued. But, this whole thing is still an open issue. Your statements that you now have “official information” is just totally without any merit. P&G is simply not going to discuss strategy and their long-term decisions with you. Sorry.
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