Amazon, the proverbial 800 pound gorilla of the online retail sales world. Is it a good place for wet shaves to buy their products? I decided to dive into it.
How Does Amazon Work?
I could go into a long-winded discussion of Amazon’s various practices but one wet shaving brand who does a lot of business through Amazon saved me the trouble with a good summary as it applies to this article:
“There are 2 different ways of selling through Amazon: Fullfilled by merchants, or Fullfilled by Amazon (FBA).
For the first method sellers will need to manually fullfill orders and deal with customer service. It’s better for QC, accepting returns, a bit cheaper to run as well. However, it’s extremely time consuming and hard to scale up….
The second method (FBA) is like playing games in God mode. Sellers and brands ship their inventory to Amazon and Amazon will handle everything: QC, inspection, pick and pack, returns, customer service. This method is much more expensive but it’s very helpful if you want to scale your business up and expanding the product range.
However, the FBA method has its own flaws. Amazon warehouse workers deal with millions of different products a day. They are not trained to inspect the QC of an item. They have no passion, no knowledge about how a product works. When they receive a customer return, they have to determine if the item is in a sellable condition to be put back in the “New” pile, using whatever skills they have even though they have never used or seen those products before. Occasionally these workers accidentally damage or drop our products and attempt to fix them manually, causing bad experience for the end users.”
What Do Experienced Wet Shavers Say?
Here are a representative sample of their comments (topics I want to emphasize for later discussion in this article are in bold):
Daryle says: “I think Amazon is a great place to start for beginning wet shavers for sure. You can get nice, basic equipment at reasonable prices with a moderate selection of items. For more advanced shavers, the selection is thin and most of the hardware is lower quality.”
Michael says: “Yes for mainstream products (i.e. Proraso, Mega-packs of Gillette Russian Blades, Pre-shaves, Post shaves). No for craft soaps, craft DE razors, craft brushes, etc.”
Nelson says: “I think Amazon.com is a good place to find deals on large makers of shaving products (companies like Van der Hagen, Proraso, Simpsons). However, I don’t pay much attention to the customer reviews. This is because I think a lot of the customers are either casual shaving enthusiasts or are purchasing these items as a gift for someone else.”
Jerry says: “I always buy direct from vendors. I feel as though Amazon is an unnecessary middleman that cuts profits from vendors. I know the vendors are small businesses and need every penny they can muster. Saying that, however, there seem to be times when Amazon is the only choice: case in point being the new Gillete vintage razor you recently wrote about.”
Dan says: “Disreputable third party sellers have myriad ways of getting phony reviews. Some stats say 11%-30% of reviews on Amazon are completely false. And that’s one of our big criteria for buying a product isn’t it—how well it is rated. Don’t get me wrong, I have bought some shaving supplies on amazon, like blades or the occasional razor if, and only if, it comes directly from the original manufacturer and not some third party. Generally speaking, for shaving goodies, I will buy through a reputable site….”
Kerry says: “My reasons for using Amazon are either that they have a better price than other online or B & M stores, have more products available, or with $25 spent the entire order can ship free. Not to mention the simplicity of returning a product to Amazon. I’ve never had to return shaving products, but I have had to make returns there, and it’s a no questions asked process. I don’t buy all of my wet shaving products from Amazon, but it is certainly a nice resource option.”
Jeff says: “Using Amazon has been a mixed bag for me. For blades and a Feather Japanese Straight Razor, absolutely zero issues. For creams, pucks, and even some “artisan” deodorants I’ve had both good and bad. I’ve had products that weren’t packaged properly and broke open during transit, some that looked like they were damaged before being packaged, and a few that weren’t the specific product at all….”
Robert says: “Amazon hasn’t done anything but take a percentage of their sales/profits. I owned an industrial distribution business for over twenty years. No way I was giving up any percentage to anybody. That can destroy a small business quickly by increasing its break even point and reducing its operating leverage past the break even point.”
Brandon says: “Overall, I’ve personally had a 50/50 experience with purchasing Wet Shaving Products on Amazon. The problems that I’ve experienced are blackmarket items or reproductions that are being sold as authentic. Another issue is receiving a inferior version of what I ordered, it was like the vendor was playing “games” with me to see if I wouldn’t notice. These problems, from what I understand, are very common, Amazon does not care if a foreign manufacture blatantly copies a small company’s product and sells it for cheaper or sells it as an authentic product. As long as it sells, they get paid. Nowadays you really need to utilize attention to detail with Amazon, otherwise you may end up no receiving what you had in mind or it arriving in a timely manner.”
A Twitter user says: “Amazon don’t offer advice to those new to wet shaving. If that is considered of value, then independent retailers need to be supported rather than looking to make every cost saving possible. But that message is a hard sell, which is why so many high streets are in trouble.“
An Instagram user says: “Looking at Amazon from the business side: Amazon is extremely controlling of your products listing, pricing and returns. If you prefer to post and sit back and allow Amazon to run your business then it’s great but if your more of a hands on then it is not. As a consumer, I prefer to support local companies or search for small businesses and purchase direct.”
What Do The Wet Shaving Brands And Vendors Say?
I’ve anonymized the responses so these representatives can speak more freely:
A wet shaving business with both “brick and mortar” stores and an Amazon presence:
“I think the answer is mixed. If it is about finding products that are hard to find immediately, then it can be very helpful. But I think the fact that Amazon has so many products from so many sellers leads to a long term problem. People operating out of their garages as a side hustle, for example, have no significant costs to being in business, and so they can discount existing brands and products to the point that there is very little margin for retailers. That may seem like good news to wet shavers who want to save a dollar here or there. But I think we are seeing that it is driving legitimate retailers out of the industry. This will lead to less investment on the part of retailers in new brands and products. This will be a long term problem for wet shavers who want to shop with knowledgeable salespeople and have an amazing assortment.”
A prominent online wet shaving vendor:
“I think we are beyond the point of trying to fight selling on Amazon. I think the key component that some people miss is that Amazon has become a search engine within itself. People search Amazon for broad categories like they would on Google. So if you want the person who shops on Amazon to be exposed to your brand, you need to do a good job of posting your product there. For brands selling direct, it is a good marketplace. For resellers like us, it cuts out most of the margin and makes it difficult to do business.”
A well-known online wet shaving vendor:
“Terrible place to do business. Between the fees and the customers taking advantage of the amazon return system it’s near impossible to make money. We only have a small presence on Amazon for [our] brand exposure. In my humble opinion, Amazon is the devil of the retail world.”
A well-known shaving brand that mainly uses Amazon:
“The cold hard truth which we (manufacturers/brands/sellers) are never allowed to say publicly is that we must learn to live with dishonest and troublesome buyers. Amazon enables these people. The modern shopping culture dictates that buyers are always right, and must always be treated as God. Therefore, Amazon almost always accepts customer returns no matter what the reason is. Many times customers use a product til it’s fully damaged and then ask for a refund, and then threaten to write a bad review. Many times they return an item from a cheaper brand, tricking clueless FBA warehouse staffs. Many times a customer does not know how to use a safety razor, cuts himself/herself badly and ask for compensation etc. Amazon almost always entertain these bad actors at the expenses of the honest seller.”
Is Amazon Good For The Wet Shaver – What Conclusions Can Be Made?
From the preceding text I think that Amazon has its advantages and disadvantages, for both the seller and the customer.
Customers can find a reasonably wide assortment of wet shaving products, and Amazon’s shipping (especially for those with “Prime” memberships) and return policies are generous.
However, counterfeit, broken, and sub-standard products are a growing problem. Reviews on the site should be taken “with a grain of salt.”
For the businesses working with Amazon, using Amazon’s sales clout and distribution capabilities can jump-start a relatively small business.
On the other hand, their fees (one brand tells me that Amazon takes up to 30% of their profits) and many restrictive policies often strain relationships to the breaking point.
What do you think? Is Amazon a good place for the wet shaver? Leave your comments below.