Harry's Co-Founders Will Bring D2C Lessons To Edgewell Brands

When Edgewell Personal Care -- owner of iconic brands like Carefree, Playtex and Schick -- completes its $1.37 billion acquisition of razor upstart Harry’s in early 2020, Harry’s co-founders Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider will end up running Edgewell.

It’s a deal that shocked many on Wall Street, given legacy marketer Edgewell’s struggle to compete with disruptive CPG startups.

Since its founding in 2013, Harry’s has gone omnichannel -- with mass offline distribution at Target and Walmart, in addition to early retail partnerships with J.Crew and Barneys.  

At Recode’s 2019 Code Commerce conference this week in Manhattan, Raider -- who also co-founded Warby Parker -- explained the rationale behind the Edgewell move and what the company needs to do to better connect its brands with consumers.

“We always thought of Harry’s as a brand that should do all of men’s personal care,” said Raider. “Today we have razors, face products and gel, hair products, body products. In the deal with Edgewell, what’s exciting for us is we actually get to take over responsibility for their brands in the U.S.”

While Edgewell’s brands don’t lack consumer awareness, Raider believes they haven’t done enough to convey product quality. “Our opportunity is to think about how to reposition those brands to consumers, create great products that they want, which is very much sort of the same mission that we had before. Having a portfolio of brands that we can oversee that can have tons of impact on peoples’ lives is what we were after, and this accelerates us getting there.”

Raider said he and Katz-Mayfield will apply lessons they’ve learned from competing with brands like Schick to help jump-start innovation at Edgewell.

“We would sit there sometimes and say, ‘well if I had Schick I would do this, I think it would work.’ And now we’ll get to go try it. And I think that’s where direct-to-consumer is so helpful, because you can put things out in the world very quickly and get signals on how people are feeling.”

Asked how he knows he and Katz-Mayfield will have the autonomy they need to make big changes at Edgewell, Raider said the two spent “days and days and days” with Edgewell senior management before agreeing to move ahead with the acquisition.

So why would Harry’s give up its independence to join forces with legacy CPG brands?

“They have exceptional product technology --  if not the best product technology  in the world,” he said of Edgewell’s. “Harry’s was on a journey to try to make the best products we possibly could, but it’s a long, expensive and complicated journey.”

Another of Edgewell’s attractions was its 40-country footprint, which will be a major expansion of Harry’s presence in the United States and Canada, according to Raider.

Right now, Harry’s doesn’t sell its products on Amazon, but Raider didn’t rule out the possibility.  “I think we’ve always taken an approach of trying to be pretty thoughtful and methodical about where we go, in ways where we feel like we’ll have great partners who will uphold the brand and where lots of our customers want us to be,” he said. “We’ll continue to evaluate how and where to expand the presence of the brand, and Amazon certainly might be one of the [retailers] we would consider.”

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