The Rise and Fall of the Segal Razor

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by GlennConti, Aug 8, 2019.

  1. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    I was going through back issues of the Saturday Evening Post 1931 to 1934. I cataloged and saved many razor and razor blade ads from this time range. Segal introduced their razor with a quarter page ad on 1931-07-11 P84 announcing their breakthrough TTO design. Gillette just had 3 piece razor designs at this point and Segal was a true innovator.

    31-07-01-84.jpg

    They price the razor at $1.00 and that included 10 blades. Spare blades could be had for 5 for $0.25. They did not advertise for more than a year until on 1932-10-01 page 77 and they would raise the price of their blades to 5 for $0.38 or 10 for $0.75.

    32-10-01-77.jpg

    In 1932 and 1933 they would advertise another 10 times (the Saturday Evening Post was a weekly magazine). On 1933-09-23 Page 78 they dropped the price of their razor to $0.50 and include 5 not 10 blades while still offering replacement blades at 5 for $0.38 or 10 for $0.75.

    33-09-23-78.jpg

    By Christmas time they had introduced a new higher priced gold plated version for $5.00 and it included 50 blades.

    33-11-18-102.jpg

    However things started to turn drastic in 1934. On 1934-01-20, they marked down the blades to 5 for $0.31 or 10 for $0.59 all while they were still discounting the razor from $1.00 to $0.50.

    34-01-20-71.jpg

    Apparently nothing much was working because ads were getting smaller and smaller and further and further deeper into the publication (this saved them on ad costs). On 1934-03-10 page 118 they droped their blade price yet again to 5 for $0.25 or 10 for $0.49.

    34-03-10-118.jpg

    But nothing much could save them. Yes they created the TTO but they could just not get any traction. While they would advertise small ads once mothly for 6 times in 1934, it would not matter because Gillette had developed their own TTO design which they introduced in 1934-12-08 page 101. Time had run out for Segal.

    34-12-08-P101-Gillette.jpg

    During Segal's run at The Saturday Evening Post from 1931 to 1934, they never had enough money to spend to get out their message. In fact only Auto Strop was really Gillette big competitor during that time. The following chart shows ad spending by Gillette, Auto Strop and Segal during that time. And after K C Gillette's death in 1932 Auto Strop merged with Gillette. Never any competition.

    Chart-Segal-Gillette.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  2. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    ASR's Gem Micromatic was a far greater threat to Gillette dominance among shaving consumers generally than Segal, especially given that the Gem was introduced at an absolute low point in consumer confidence in Gillette (1930-32) with financial scandal which led to the Autostrop takeover in substance, bad blades scandals which had begun a decade earlier but leaked with a Gilllette mea culpa in 1932, tanking stock price (fell by 90% by '33), and the death of its public face with King Gillette's passing in 1932 (after not before the merger). The very popular Enders Speed was also introduced in this same period and unlike the Uni-Matic would stick around for two decades.

    Newspaper advertising for the Segal began earlier than the Post campaign, not later than April of 1931 as I mentioned on the other thread.

    I don't know exactly what impact Gillette's 1938 countersuit and their earlier threats against Segal distributors had on Segal distribution but you can be sure there was some from the time of the Aristocrat introduction until Gillette's countersuit was dismissed in '39.

    Segal's razor business did survive to introduce the click adjustable version of their TTO in the early post war period.



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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  3. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

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  4. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    Thanks for adding to my knowledge about this time period and the Segal razors. I am going to forge ahead with my data collection at the Saturday Evening Post. I did capture every razor or blade ad from 1930 to 1934. I’ll keep at it from at least until the end of 1939. I was seeing how Gem was coming on strong with full page ads right about when Auto Strop stopped placing them. Also interesting is the introduction of the Schick Dry Shaver during this time. Gillette also responded to that technical innovation. So engineering wise they were responding to external threats and aware of the competition. Ad budgets were robust. Being the market leader money was just coming it. Competition besides Gem did not seem well funded.

    It is also funny that shaving was such a chore. People didn’t seem to blame the raw carbon steel blades as much as they should have. Shaving cream manufacturers had plenty of money for ads and lots of them. They were trying to sell more comfortable shaving via better creams. Gillette would solve this problem later with invention of the coated blade.

    Thanks again for the great input.

    PS I just started reading Russell Adam’s book.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  5. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    A couple of further observations. The prominent Post advertising wasn't necessarily reaching the demographic that Gilllette needed to reach to reverse it's decline in earnings and market share that had begun before the merger--- the $1 razor buyers reading the sports pages .

    Lambert resigned as Gillette President in 34 with market share at long time low and no improvement in earnings.. Lambert's replacement Stampleman also failed, when he was removed in December 38 earnings were the lowest since 1915, Aristocrat notwithstanding. Finally, under another new chief executive Joseph Spang it was sports radio advertising, the Tech, and overdue improvements in blade technology and lower blades prices (and another handy war) that would finally turn Gillette around.

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    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
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  6. poppi

    poppi Well-Known Member

    Interesting stuff, thanks so much
     
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  7. brit

    brit in a box

    very cool thread..
     
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  8. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    CE5272F0-C313-4278-B5EC-BA76CBD562D8.jpeg So I got through to complete 1938 so I reviewed 9 years of publications. Segal never made another advertisement other than the ones stated previously. Of note, Schick introduced an electric razor which was quickly copied by Sunbeam, Remington Rand, Hanley and Gillette in December 1938. Gillette kept with cheaper versions of TTO models with the Sheraton and the Senator at only $0.69. Remington Rand couldn’t keep up with their orders they were flying of the shelves the electric razors. Also during this time Gillette introduces shave cream (with peanut oil) and decimated the competition for that product apparently. Many ads for shave cream go away after Gillette’s introduction. And finally I had to mention this.... Philco invented the remote control device introduced on October 15, 1938.
     
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  9. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    Hmm I'm not sure about that conclusion. I see some reduction in newspaper advertising for Barbasol in 1938 from say 1936 but not much, and fewer ads for Gillette cream. Palmolive and Barbasol certainly didn't disappear, ASR products were sold with them in partnership, and both companies survived and prospered despite competition with Gillette. As for the peanut oil angle, after its 1937 introduction it didn't much appear as a feature in their advertising. A point of interest re Barbasol, many of the Barbasol Floating Head razors we now prize were given away as promotions tied into Barbasol radio advertising in 1937.





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    I do like this 1940 Gillette ad:


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    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  10. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    In the first part of 1935 Gillette's advertising message was basically trying to shame men into shaving more by wives or girlfriends nagging them or bosses firing them. Don't be a tramp. Basically shave more and use more blades. Briefly there was a $1000.00 prize to name Max Baer's dog. Then a shift into Gillette's technical prowess at manufacturing and quality control testing razor blades. Even a secret process is revealed. In 1936 Gillette goes into testimonial advertising heavily. Even going so far as disguising the ads to make them appear as news articles by the selected celebrity. Lou Gehrig was one selected, but sports stars were rare at this time. Near the end of 1936 the ad message switches to the need for customers to be using Gillette blades in Gillette razors; that being the secret to a perfect shave. Shaving is not a chore - shaving is a thrill but only if you team blade and razor from Gillette. Don't buy cheap imitations. Razor and blade should match. Etc etc. No misfit blades. Misfits are torture. Then after the whole year of 1937 convincing people to only use their products, they lower the boom and introduce shaving cream in their 1937 Christmas ad. In 1938 they are featuring shave cream pictures in their ads. This after spending the entire year saying a good blissful shave can only be had when you buy all elements from Gillette anything else is torturous misfit. I definitely see a subsequent drop off in shaving cream advertising from competitors. The real story of 1938 though is the emergence of the electric razor. Remington and Sunbeam both tout how they cannot keep up with demand.

    38-10-22-P095-Remington.jpg

    38-04-02-P081-Sunbeam.jpg

    Gillette feared and coveted the electric shaver market so much so that they had to introduce one of their own. Single edge blades and razors.... ? Not so much.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  11. ghostlife

    ghostlife Well-Known Member

    cool history in this thread, thanks guys
     
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  12. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    My problem here is you are drawing broad conclusions from adverts in a single magazine. I'm sure Gillette's new cream had a real impact but I don't believe it decimated the competition. A drop off in Saturday Evening Post adverts in and of itself doesn't justify that "decimated the competition" leap. As noted earlier this pre 1939 advertising wasn't doing much for Gillette's bottom line whose sorry state led to another changing of the executive leadership in '38.

    The other big story for Gillette in 1938 was its introduction of the cheaper Thin Blade. Gillette's bottom line had suffered mightily from cheaper blades from competition which consumer magazines, and consumers themselves deemed equal or superior to the high priced Gillette blades. The Thin Blade was a direct and successful response though it came a couple years after other thin blades entered the market. Fortunately for Gilllette many of these small blade manufacturers seem not to have survived the disruptive impact of WWII and Gillette's superiority in advertising and national distribution.






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    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  13. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    Yes I see what you are saying. However, Gillette is introduction new products all the time at this point. Responding to threats. Co-0pting competitors innovations. They have a firm base at the high end of the market and also apparently are taking on companies at the low end. I see Marlin getting into the blade market at this time at 20 for $0.25. Maybe I overstated how much market share Gillette stole with their shaving cream introduction but market share they were stealing and it had to be profitable as they still sell it at a premium price.
     
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  14. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    Gillette from 1929 to 1938 was struggling, with its focus on premium priced products justified by Gillette "quality" in deep doo doo. Marlin was only one of many offering arguably better blades and it was blade sales which really mattered. Beginning in '39 radio blitz, cheap but better blades and the Tech did finally turn things around with the assist from WW2.

    Here is Consumer's Digest blade recommendations for 1938. You'll note the Gillette blades are not recommended (pretty much the same picture for 39-40).


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    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  15. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    Yes I think many many companies were struggling from 1929 through 1939 until WWII. With the depression and subsequent recession brought on by the cost of the New Deal all suffered. Some more than others though. I just don't buy that Gillette was struggling severely. Certainly not if you consider new product development and advertising expenditures. These are the first categories to go and spending gets cut when a company is on hard times. And on a factual point Gillette had a weekly radio show starting in 1937 hosted by Milton Berle. So, they were spending on both radio and print advertising. If radio was to help, they were in it in January of 1937. Here is an ad from 1937-01-09-Page52 - Saturday Evening Post. See plug for Milton Berle show.

    BlowUp-MiltonBerle.jpg

    As far as Consumer Digest goes, I see Auto Strop made the list; and they were a division of Gillette. I am also wondering whether "Gillette" technology was being used to also make those blades. I find it odd that Auto Strop had a better process for making razor blades than Gillette, but that Gillette would not incorporate it into their process so many years after the merger. Was it just that Consumer Digest enjoyed a value proposition and wouldn't recommend the high priced Gillette Blades? In other words maybe they thought the difference was not enough to justify the cost. Not that the blade quality was inferior? Further, Consumer Digest apparently was testing sharpness and durability. As it turns out Gillette was to discover with lab testing and focus groups around the mid 1950's (1958 Patent US2937976A) that blade sharpness had little to do with shaving quality and comfort and more to do with the fact that coatings needed to be applied to raw steel blades to keep the newly exposed keratin proteins from bonding to the steel causing pulling. Following Gillette's lead all but specialty blades are coated now. So really what did Consumer Digest know about it? Please tell me more...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  16. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    All companies suffered from the depression but that's not the point, Gillette, despite remaining profitable, suffered more than competitors like ASR, reflected in a decline in market share and greater reduction in stock price.

    That Auto-Strop blades are recommended only suggests that their double edge blade technology was not up to the standards of their single edge. Consumer Digest had problems with Gillette quality versus the competition, not just price as they did recommend s DE blade -- the Windsor Super Thin -- priced in the same five cent range as the Blue Blades. They tested 30 blades in 1938 and 41 in 1939. At this juncture Gillette share of the blade market had fallen to 18%.

    According to every Gillette history I've read it was sports radio sponsorship that had the greatest impact on sales , specifically beginning with the 1939 World Series and boxing championships. One source cites the increase in sales resulting from this single campaign at 350%. Here's another telling to give you an idea.

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    https://books.google.com/books/about/Here_s_the_Pitch.html?id=VwyEDwAAQBAJ

    Another::

    "The blade maker's woes continued after Gillette delivered inferior blades to the market in 1930. Following complaints from consumers, Gillette admitted its error in a 1932 ad headlined "We made a mistake." The same ad also announced the marketer's first major product and marketing innovation in 30 years: the Gillette Blue Super-Blade, later renamed the Blue Blade.

    After reasoned appeals stressing the new blade's lower cost per shave failed, Gillette returned to scare tactics, claiming that a close shave was the difference between prosperity and poverty. The new ads echoed a 1931 effort that played on the widespread fear of joblessness: "He's careless about shaving-frequently leaves a repulsive growth of stubble on his face. Can he expect an employer to overlook this fault?"

    In the midst of these corporate stresses, Mr. Gillette, who had remained active in the company, became ill and died on July 13, 1932, at the age of 77.

    While Gillette's profits declined during the Depression, many American men proved unwilling to forego their daily shave. Despite the proliferation of rival products and the increased tendency of consumers to reuse blades, Gillette remained profitable through the 1930s. Still, by 1938, the company held only an 18% share of the blade market.

    Gillette's most notable advertising successes came after Joseph P. Spang Jr. took over as president in December 1938 and increased the company's ad budget by 50%. Despite mixed success with earlier efforts to involve the marketer in sports, Gillette in 1939 became the exclusive sponsor of baseball's World Series on the Mutual Broadcasting System.

    Gillette committed 20% of its annual advertising budget (more than $200,000) for exclusive radio rights, radio time and a "World Series Special" promotion during baseball's showcase series. The campaign proved remarkably successful, and Gillette sold about 2.5 million World Series Specials (Note: Tech razor and Blue Blades) more than twice its projected goal. (In fact, the World Series promotion proved so successful that Gillette remained the event's primary or sole sponsor until 1964.)"

    https://adage.com/article/adage-encyclopedia/gillette/98674
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
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  17. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your reply. Yes I see what you are saying. I have just completed the R Adams book on KC Gillette and his company. It does confirm what you are saying about the stock price being so off and how the World Series broadcast rights were secured and were very helpful.

    However, the book disagrees with you in a couple of ways. It casts doubt on the consumer studies in that one year a blade was selected as recommended when it was indeed supplied to the company by Gillette from their qc rejects at a discount and the first quality Gillette blades were not recommended that year. Next, the AutoStrop manufacturing technology was quickly incorporated into Gillette after the takeover. But quality wise was not really better. It just allowed for high quality at a cheaper manufacturing cost. The mea culpa from Lambert was just a marketing move to reset the customer perceptions. They AutoStrop team were the new guys and could afford such a marketing strategy. Think about it after the AutoStrop takeover sales eventually rebounded. Customers were not stupid and could not long be tricked by a poor quality expensive blade. As the economy improved so did Gillette’s fortunes.

    Please note I have created a Gillette company timeline that is very comprehensive. Anyone is invited to review it. It has taken me days and hours to produce. Comments appreciated.

    http://gilletteadjustable.com/gillette-company-timeline/
     
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  18. jmudrick

    jmudrick Well-Known Member

    You are right that consumers were not going to be fooled..which is why Gillette's market share was only 18% in 1938, six years after introduction of the Blue Blade, down from the 70+ wit had been in the previous decade. Not sure about the relevance of the CD anecdote, the Gillette blades were not recommended in 1939 either. And I believe CD claims they bought the blades themselves, they weren't supplied by the manufacturer. You are right that sales recovered but it took more than a decade and a world war for Gillette to do so.

    Wow that's some timeline. I'll work through it

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    Last edited: Aug 12, 2019
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  19. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    No the “manufacturer” was only a private-label operation who indeed were getting their blades from Gillette at a discount because they were QC rejects. The consumer group losses credibility when they rank them higher than Gillette’s own first quality blades. Yes CD bought the blades about 40 or 50 from the private label operation only to say they were better than Gillette.
     
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  20. GlennConti

    GlennConti Well-Known Member

    So you are also saying the Gillette blades continued to stink after 1938 and the stupid customers didn’t care because they loved baseball?
     
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