The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it will file a lawsuit to keep Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company, from acquiring Billie, the women’s direct to consumer razor market ‘disrupter’.
The lawsuit alleges that the acquisition would eliminate substantial competition in the women’s wet shave market. The market has long been dominated by P&G, maker of bestselling razors, Gillete, Venus and Joy, and accounted for 50.3% market share of women’s razors in 2019. However, in the last few years, direct to consumer brands like Billie and Flamingo have sought to end the consumer giant’s stranglehold on the women’s razor market. Billie was founded in 2017, and takes a stand against the pink tax — which upcharges women’s personal-care products — by creating a razor priced in line with affordable men’s razors. In addition to offering cheaper products, it offers realistic portrayals of body hair in its advertising. The brand has since expanded to offer a range of beauty products including wipes, dry shampoo and lip balm.
“Billie saw an opportunity to challenge P&G’s position as the market leader by finding underserved, price- and quality-conscious customers, and building an innovative brand,” said Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “As its sales grew, Billie was likely to expand into brick-and-mortar stores, posing a serious threat to P&G. If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices.”
The FTC claims that Billie’s intended retail expansion, which would have benefited consumers through intensified competition, was halted due to the proposed acquisition.
It’s not the first time the FTC have sought to prevent the purchase of a razor startup company by one of the big boys. In a similar move earlier this year, it sued to stop Schick-owner Edgewell Personal Care (EPC) from purchasing Harry’s, the famed men’s razor startup. The FTC claimed the $1.4 billion Harry’s buyout would “remove a critical disruptive rival that has driven down prices and spurred innovation”
P&G said it was considering its options in relation to the Billie purchase. “We were disappointed by the FTC’s decision, and we’re considering our options in light of the decision,” a spokeswoman for the company said. More to come on this one!