PDA

View Full Version : Why are razor cartridges so expensive?


AnabolicDoberman
05-03-2006, 12:02 AM
I can't deny that my Shick Quatro shaves better than a disposable. But not THAT good, so I am back to disposables. They are like $8 for a pack of 4. I can't see them costing anywhere near $2 a cartridge to make these.

CynicalGabe
05-03-2006, 12:22 AM
Of course it doesn't cost $2 to make them. Once you but the razor, you are committed to buy their brand of blades. So they charge you as much as they can without driving you to another brand.

Ins&Outs&What-have-yous
05-03-2006, 12:28 AM
The cost of materials is low and likely about the same for both disposable razors new Schick Quattro® cartridges. The extra cost of the cartridges passed onto the consumer is due to the cost of the company developing a new product: designing, prototyping, testing, developing a new manufacturing setup, and marketing. Your run-of-the-mill disposables have been around longer and do involve these costs much.

Jophiel
05-03-2006, 12:41 AM
designing, prototyping, testing, developing a new manufacturing setup, and marketing."Designing"?? All they do is keep cramming more and more blades in there! :D

Duckster
05-03-2006, 01:30 AM
I use a generic brand of cartridges. Name brands for my razor are something like $10 for four to six blades. The generic brand, made by the same company, goes for $3 for ten cartridges.

Sam Stone
05-03-2006, 02:30 AM
Razor companies spend an absolutely insane amount of money on R&D, believe it or not. Gillette spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on research and development. The Mach 3 razor reportedly cost 750 million dollars to develop. And the marketing costs are gigantic.

The device is deceptively simple looking, but there are 35 patents on the Mach 3, and during development there was something like 20,000 test shaves done with various prototypes. Remember, they not only have to design the razor, but the assembly line to build it, the molds and extrusion processes, etc. It's actually a pretty complex piece of manufacturing, and the handles themselves are probably sold at a loss or breakeven. The razors are actually very good at what they do, because a lot of money was spent making them very good.

And sure, once the assembly lines are set up the unit cost of the blades goes way down, especially in the quantities they make (billions of units per year). That's why they can afford to spend $750 million on R&D. But it's not exactly a license to print money. Razor companies can and do go bankrupt, and Shick and Gillette fight like dogs over market share.

I've got an M3 power razor, which I absolutely love. And the old Mach 3 blades fit it, so you don't even have to buy the more expensive M3 power blades (I can't tell the difference between them). I buy blades in bulk at Costco, and it's really not all that expensive. I tried one of those new 'Fusion' razors, and while it's a pretty cool device, it didn't offer a significantly better shave (maybe a bit better than the M3, but not by much). And it uses a new blade attachment system which doesn't work with the older blades, which forces you to buy the outrageously expensive Fusion blades. So it's going into the drawer, maybe to be pulled out again when and if those Fusion blades come down in price (here in Canada they're almost $5/cartridge! I get the Mach 3 blades for less than 2 bucks, and they last me almost a month)

Ins&Outs&What-have-yous
05-03-2006, 03:54 AM
Your run-of-the-mill disposables have been around longer and do involve these costs much....do NOT involve these costs much, rather.

Cheesesteak
05-03-2006, 07:14 AM
There's also very little reason to drop price on the higher end models. There is already a continuum of prices for customers. Gillette has plain blades, the TracII, Atra, Sensor, Mach3 and Fusion.

Lowering the price on Fusion and Mach3 only puts them at the same price point as Sensor and Atra, you'll get those people switching over, buying slightly more expensive blades at the same price. People are willing to pay $2 per blade for the newest technology, so that's what they charge. People who aren't willing to pay can select a cheaper technology, like you did.

Martini Enfield
05-03-2006, 07:43 AM
I, being one of those poor sods who has to shave Every. Single. Day lest I look like I've been incacerated in a third-world prison, got sick of spending a fortune on razors.

The El Cheapo ones cut my face to shreds, and the expensive ones were, well, expensive.

So I went and got one of those old-school "Missile Silo" type razors, the ones that you use the double-edged blades in.

Blades are $10 for a packet of 10 (made by the fine English firm of Wilkinson Sword), and they not only shave pretty damn well, each blade lasts me about two weeks. Problem solved! :D

Shoeless
05-03-2006, 08:14 AM
Slight hijack here, but is it possible to get handles for older twin-blade type of cartridges? Or is it part of their overall marketing strategy to force you to upgrade? I've got about a dozen unused Atra cartridges that I'd use if I could, but I don't have an Atra handle. Every store I've been to sells the cartridges but no handle -- all that's available are the newer Mach III, Quattro, Fusion, etc.

Cluricaun
05-03-2006, 08:16 AM
Haven't you seen the commercial for the Fusion where the two men approach what appears to be a clear supercollider, and then insert a glowing tube of orange stuff in one side and a glowing tube of blue stuff in the other, which then shoot towards each other, in the end creating a Gillette Fusion razor? This is how they actually make them.. It's a very costly process involving alien technology and a sort of cold fusion.

In all honesty I ran out of my razors ( I buy three blade disposables made by Old Spice, which is odd, but they work well enough) last weekend and had to resort to using my girlfriends Gilette Venus. I'll be damned if that wasn't the nicest and easiest shave I've ever had. The head pivots a great deal more than any of the men's razors I've tried, and the blades are spaced farther apart, meaning it doesn't clog up as quickly. I'm switching to the Venus. We'll share the cost in blades.

Mindfield
05-03-2006, 09:15 AM
I got utterly sick of the continued rising prices of Mach 3 blades (which I still used), so I ended up buying a recharceagle 3-head rotary. It works quite well, though perhaps it isn't quite as comfortable, nor is it as capable at getting all the stubble from the lower neckline, so I do still use the Mach 3 for just whisking away the last stray fringes and bits. But the upshot is that I haven't bought blades in 3 months so far, where I used to buy a pack of four every couple of weeks at $10+ a pop. Now, at best, I'll buy a pack once every few months, and maybe once every 6-8 months (not sure the proper length of time here) maybe replace the foil heads, which is like $20 or something.

vetbridge
05-03-2006, 09:26 AM
The first blade lifts, the second blade cuts. What do blades three and four do?

Mindfield
05-03-2006, 09:45 AM
The first blade lifts, the second blade cuts. What do blades three and four do?

Gang up on the stubble blades 1 and 2 cut off and beat the everliving crap out of it.

La Llorona
05-03-2006, 09:55 AM
Slight hijack here, but is it possible to get handles for older twin-blade type of cartridges?

Just before my grandfather died, he gave me his old razor handle (nice heft! Genuine metal!) and several packages of generic Atra cartridges. Not much point to that story except that I always think fondly of dear old granddad whenever I bust out the shaving cream...so I suppose my answer is 1) there are some on eBay, or 2) if you aren't overly scrupulous, you could always swoop down on the elderly and, ah, "liberate" their Atra handles. Take from the rich and give to the stubbly! ;)

CookingWithGas
05-03-2006, 10:37 AM
Questions about the price of things in a free-market economy are always answered by "supply and demand." Even in a monopoly, supply and demand ultimately drives the price.

Economists are fond of saying that the cost of manufacture is irrelevant to the selling price. IANAE, but I think that might be oversimplifying--I think that manufacturing costs do help shape the supply curve.

But some kinds of items are priced just a little above supplier's cost and some much above. So there is no direct relationship between cost to make and purchase price.

Anyway, it takes two to tango. The price wouldn't be so high if people weren't willing to buy them at that price.

Fear the Turtle
05-03-2006, 11:04 AM
I got 16 Mach3 Power blades on E-Bay for about $20. When my Atra was new, the blades were expensive also, but started to come down after store brands were available. Same should happen for Mach3. I find the Mach3 shaves much closer and the blades last much longer then the diposables (which I used when I'm TDY), so the blades are well worth the extra money (maybe even cheaper in the long run due to longer blade life and not having to waste TP on my face).

Godfrey Daniels
05-03-2006, 11:39 AM
I've never graduated from the Sensor, since it seems to do the job nicely, but here's an interesting website by some guys who are really into shaving:Merkur Razors (http://www.classicshaving.com/catalog/item/522941/284057.htm)

I bought a really nice mug & brush and some soap from them.

Queuing
05-03-2006, 12:21 PM
Another slight hijack, but is there any environmental benefit to using the mach3 or fusion, over a fully disposable razor? Since you are only throwing out the blade, and not the full razor, therefore reducing your razor waste? Or is this a) so insignificant it really makes no difference, b) the manufacturing process is so much more involved it negates this, or c) some other reason?

thirdname
05-03-2006, 12:56 PM
I got utterly sick of the continued rising prices of Mach 3 blades (which I still used), so I ended up buying a recharceagle 3-head rotary. It works quite well, though perhaps it isn't quite as comfortable, nor is it as capable at getting all the stubble from the lower neckline

Electric shavers are a lot more comfortable if you use a pre-shave gel such as Williams Lectric.

rowrrbazzle
05-03-2006, 12:56 PM
I recently switched to Target's double blades for the Gillette Sensor. They work far better than Gillette's blades and they're half the price.

Rayne Man
05-03-2006, 01:54 PM
A piece of trivia for you. Did you know that in the UK the most shoplifted item is the Mach 3 razor and its cartridges? They are now being fitted with individual security tags , and sometimes locked away in their own cabinet to try and prevent them being stolen.

brickbacon
05-03-2006, 02:01 PM
Razor companies spend an absolutely insane amount of money on R&D, believe it or not. Gillette spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on research and development. The Mach 3 razor reportedly cost 750 million dollars to develop. And the marketing costs are gigantic.

Cite? Not that I don't believe you, I just can't believe it costs that much to design a razor.

Also, would a generic mach 3 razor head infringe on Gillette's patents?

Mindfield
05-03-2006, 03:05 PM
Electric shavers are a lot more comfortable if you use a pre-shave gel such as Williams Lectric.

Actually, I'm using a Philips Coolshave, the with the lotion cartridges, and the lotion (actualy it came with both lotion and gel packs) works great; the mild discomfort is simply from the heads tugging on the stubble as they cut it off. Most of the time it's okay but there's always a few hairs here and there that it just catches wrong and pulls before severing. Probably not much I can do except get a newer, sharper set of heads, which I'll probably have to do in a few months anyway.

Wesley Clark
05-03-2006, 03:45 PM
So I went and got one of those old-school "Missile Silo" type razors, the ones that you use the double-edged blades in.



Those cut my face up pretty bad. I've noticed the Mach 3 is one of the few razors that does not cut me up.

I sometimes buy blades on ebay for it, they go for about $1 each there, as opposed to $2 a blade at stores. I should go to sams club or costco though.

Iggins
05-03-2006, 04:36 PM
Well, I can only add this:

Open up, baby birds! (http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930)

postcards
05-03-2006, 05:03 PM
Well, I can only add this:

Open up, baby birds! (http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930)
Life imitates satire. (http://money.cnn.com/2005/09/14/news/fortune500/gillette/index.htm)

Sam Stone
05-03-2006, 09:31 PM
Cite? Not that I don't believe you, I just can't believe it costs that much to design a razor.


That was a number I just 'knew', probably from reading engineering mags. But I just did some Googling, and found this:

The product of seven years of continuous effort and an unprecedented seven hundred and fifty million dollars in manufacturing and development costs alone, Mach 3 will make its debut in July and by the turn of the century should be the most popular razor in America. Within two years, Gillette should be selling 1.2 billion Mach 3 blades each year.

I also found a U.K. commission report on competitive practices in the razor industry (warning: PDF) which says this:

The development of particular new products, each of which may take several years, may require the commitment of considerable amounts of R&D expenditure over the period (eg Gillette spent some £110 million over a ten-year period to develop its Sensor systems razor and a further £70 million to start up production


That's 180 million pounds spent between 1979 and 1989 on the Sensor R&D, which was a much simpler razor. In constant American dollars, that's got to be close to $500 million.

Also, would a generic mach 3 razor head infringe on Gillette's patents?

Of the 35 patents on the Mach3, you can bet that one of the most critical would be the patented method of attaching the razor blade catridge. After spending that much on R&D, Gillette would be insane to have an attachment method that allowed generic blades to be attached to their razor. So if you make a blade that fits, you're probably in patent violation. They've got hundreds of patents on various aspects of razor technology, making it pretty hard to sell generic replacements. Patents only last 17 years, which is why you can find generic Trac-II and Atra cartridges I'd imagine.

Here's an interesting Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gillette_Mach_3) article on the Mach3 that goes into great detail about its construction. It's actually a pretty sophisticated little device. And a lot of the research you can't see, such as the metallurgy of the blades.

jnglmassiv
05-03-2006, 10:09 PM
I recently participated in a market research study for razors. We used what were apparently run of the mill Gillette Fusions. My $75 participation payment came directly from Gillette's bottom line.

During the eligibily interview, they asked me I or anyone in my family was a metallurgy engineer. I kinda wish I was.