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November 25, 2009

Dispatch from the real economy

The drugstore has locked down the deodorant.

Addendum: You can tell a lot about a neighborhood by what gets locked up to prevent shoplifting. Here in New York, supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods tend to put baby formula behind glass. Swankier places will keep it behind the counter at the pharmacy, or sometimes even out on the shelf.

Yuppie liquor stores keep all but their most expensive bottles out on the shelves to encourage customers to facilitate impulse buys. By contrast, liquor stores in rougher neighborhoods may keep the bulk of their inventory behind plexiglass. Liquor stores are an extreme example because they've got to worry about robberies as well as shoplifting, but it's the same merchandising principle at work. It's a tradeoff between accessibility and security.

Small, expensive items like razor blades and batteries are likely to be secured no matter where you go. But it's a bad sign that deodorant shoplifting has become enough of a problem to justify the expense of the giant plastic case and extra hassle for the employees.


Pictures or it didn't happen ;^)


thanks for the share

Susan, my guess is that shoplifting went way up.


Shoplifting is a huge problem during the best of times. Shoplifting becomes an even bigger issue during the worst of times, especially as cartels have moved into the business. It is no longer just the 'lone' shoplifter. Sadly, all of us are paying premiums on merchandise to cover the expenses of shrinkage.

"My bills are all due and the baby needs shoes and I'm busted
Cotton is down to a quarter a pound, but I'm busted
I got a cow that went dry and a hen that won't lay
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted.

I went to my brother to ask for a loan cause I was busted
I hate to beg like a dog without his bone, but I'm busted
My brother said there ain't a thing I can do,
My wife and my kids are all down with the flu,
And I was just thinking about calling on you 'cause I'm busted."

Let's hope everyone has a little something to eat today and be thankful that we don't have to swipe deodorant to get ready for futile job interviews.

"Lord I'm no thief, but a man can go wrong when he's busted" (beginning of the third verse).

Lindsay, in many stores the razor blades and batteries are not secured. Anecdotally, I've seen bodegas and Duane Reade keep the blades behind the cashier's counter, but supermarkets have razor blades in the open for people to pick up, regardless of how rich the neighborhood is. I'm less sure about batteries - I've seen stores keep them in the open, but the one case I remember specifically is on the Upper West Side and may not be representative.

With liquor stores it's also interesting to see what's behind the counter when most things are not. For a while it's mostly been cognac, of most sizes, even when there are plenty of other more expensive drinks not behind the counter. It would seem that cognac is a favorite of shop-lifters, or at least liquor store operators think so. (I should add that I noticed this in particular because I like cognac and found it a big pain when the switch was made.)

I travel a lot and tend to seek out Walgreens for toiletries. Every Walgreens I've been in - regardless the neighborhood - keeps their razor blades locked up. Disposable razors are open to customers, but the replacement blades ($15 - $30) require an attendant.

In both drug stores and both supermarkets in my area they lock up the condoms.

I chock it up to the prudishness of the deep south as I see no reason to keep under lock & key something that is available at family planning clinics and college infirmaries for free.

I've always known the good razor blades - Gillette Fusion blades etc - to be locked up. They're high value, small items that lots of people use. Ideal "currency" for shoplifters who can either use or resell them.

razor blade economy doesn't make sense.

a complete low end Braun electric shaver can be bought for ~$40. The blade last about 8-10 months if one doesn't rough it.

A 12 pack refill is about $20, plus the first set of razor blade $10, then generic bran shaving cream $8. If one is only into basic shaving and be economical the set can last 6 months, so another $20 refill.

The economy is clearly on low end electric shaver on annual replacement cycle.

Squashed, the idea of electric shavers is great; the part where they leave my face red is not so great.

And where the hell can you get 12 blades for $20? I have to shell out $20-25 for 8.

it's old basic model I used. Dunno what stuff they sell these days. Blade is definitely closer and feels nicer. But they noticeably rise the blade price whenever they feel like it. Then they keep changing models. So after second refill one has to change to newer more expensive model regardless. irritating.

I hope their patent expired soon, so the chinese can sell exact same damned thing for 1/100th the price. lol.

10 pack is ~$15 (I swear they had 12 pack before.)

the fancier version has 25 pack for ~$40

Ah, that's the double blade. I use the Mach3, which is incompatible with Fusion. Yes, I bought the wrong blades, more than once.

And the Chinese have never really given a damn about patents. But there are probably tariffs on those blades...

I don't know why, but for some reason I find this razor blade business and technology amusing. If P&G controls some 60-70% of global facial hair business. wow... if they close it'll be the end of civilization as we know it. Talking about too big to fail. lol.

for eg.

- Do you know "Braun" is now owned by P&G who bought Gillette in 2005. Braun was bought by gillette in 1984. P&G control about 70% of men's shaving business. Global domination people!

- Schick on the other hand controls "women's shaving blades" which is essentially exact same technology. But Gillette never even attempted selling their 'bush whacker' to women.

Now, I want to know why exactly there are no competition. It's just a thin strip of metal that people use everyday, not exactly rocket science. Why aren't there more competition???

Gillette is the largest supplier of razors and razor blades in most of the world's major economies. Its United Kingdom market share is 60 per cent by value and 40 per cent by volume, while that of Wilkinson Sword (its only full range competitor) is 20 per cent by value and 23 per cent by volume. The only other supplier of significance in the United Kingdom is Biro Bic Ltd (Bic), which just supplies disposable razors and has a market share of 15 per cent by value and 30 per cent by volume.

In fact, the strategy of protecting ongoing revenue streams worked so well that Gillette pursued it again when it launched its high-end MACH3 shaving system in June 1998--at a price premium of 50% above its then top-of-the-line SensorExcel. Once more, the numbers tell the story. Within only six months of its introduction, the MACH3 had become the best-selling razor in the United States, with sales running at three times the level produced at a comparable point in Sensor's launch. And Gillette's share of the worldwide razor and blade market had soared as well, to more than 70%.

The key lesson from Gillette's experience? Simply this: develop an innovative, high quality "platform product" that locks in the customer, and then generate revenue in perpetuity from that customer base through a high-margin, repeat-purchase product like razor blades. That's a basic tenet of PTC's Product First strategy--and one that Gillette, through courageous corporate decision-making and aggressive, confident marketing has used to solidify a century-old dominance in its marketspace.


Safety razors had first been developed in the mid-1800s, but still used a forged blade. In the 1870s, the Kampfe Brothers introduced a type of razor[1] along these lines. Gillette improved these earlier designs of the safety razor and also introduced his true innovation of high profit-margin stamped razor blade steel blades (along with his unique business model). Gillette's razor retailed for a substantial $5 (almost $134 in 2006 dollars) — half the average workingman's weekly pay — yet it sold by the millions.

The most difficult part of the development was making the blades, as cheap thin steel was very difficult to work with and very difficult to sharpen. This accounts for the long delay between the initial idea and the first production.

OK. back me out here people. What do you think of this business idea? Razor that never goes dull.

The last shaver you'll ever buy. The blade will be made from ceramic that is very sharp and never go dull. (zirconium blades)

(see this zirconium knifes by kyochera.)

Sounds like a great idea to me....I'm all in. Probably because of my distant Scottish genes, I reuse my blades as long as possible until they actually start to hurt. So my face would be very happy if I were to switch to something like this.

I liked the link. With 35 years in the chemical industry, I found the separation steps of the ZrO2 from the raw ore very interesting. Thanks.

The good electric razor has yet to be made. They just can't handle real beards.

I saved a fortune on Fusion blades by buying in bulk on Ebay, then reselling to friends at cost the ones I wouldn't be using for a couple of years.

Here in rural NY, all of these things can still be purchased at the grocery store off-the-shelf. Shopping for electronics, however, at Walmart or Best Buy is like visiting a prison dispensary. Domed surveillance cameras everywhere; entrance "greeters" who inspect your receipts on the way out; everything behind glass. A simple SD card I selected at Best Buy was escorted by a salesperson across the store to the register "for me" the final time I shopped there.

I don't personally care about the retailers' justification. With online shopping, I get convenience, unlimited hours, the ability to compare products and prices, a quiet and comfortable environment, freedom from sales pressure, and now: Dignity.

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