The answer – everybody in the production & distribution channel.
There have been plenty of posts on a number of the shaving forums by well-meaning people asking why do people even bother with counterfeiting blades as ‘the money in it isn’t that big’, and saying that the fake blades are really a rare thing. Well, generally the money isn’t that big. But the margins are MASSIVE. Anytime that someone can make anywhere from 200%-300% on their money as a sure thing, you would be mad not to do it.
And at the end of the day, the person footing the bill is the consumer – the person buying the blades to use. They do not get what they pay for.
What brought on this post? After trawling through eBay today I found the new ‘Thai’ Gillette Super Stainless blades selling for USD$90 per 100, delivered free from seller ‘topitems888’. Thai postage is fairly cheap so I would not think that they would need more than $10 for postage worldwide. At the resulting 80c per blade, I can buy vintage Gillette Spoilers from the 1970’s!
80 cents per blade. Holy crap I want in on this business. Someone is making huge money, and it is the entire distribution chain. Not even the biggest online retailers of double edge blades can buy Gillette’s Russian produced blades (at PPI St Petersburg) for the prices that the Chinese charge FOB either a boat or Truck. If they are lucky, they get a 35% margin on the delivered cost, so the average $30 tuck of Gillette Silver Blues cost the retailer about $22 to get them into stock on a volume purchase of around 100K blades.
The first thing that people have to understand is that a single double edge razor blade costs almost nothing to produce, package and load onto a truck for delivery. Having worked in a manufacturing business where product unit costs are calculated to six decimal places, it only takes a very small movement in input costs (materials, machine costs, energy, labour) to have a large impact on margins. Even more so when you have very large numbers of units produced which is the case with razor blades. That said, with massive unit numbers produced then the overall costs of labour and energy costs literally is tiny fractions of a cent per unit.
The cost to produce a basic double-edge razor blade is literally less than one cent. That might seem very low to some people, but remembering that these counterfeit blades are produced in China where factories can buy cheap stainless steel from steel mills, labour and energy costs are extremely low compared to western markets, and the volumes are very high. The factories produce the blades and will sell the finished blades packaged and ready to go for 2 cents per blade on a 100% margin. The average 100-blade tuck would cost just $2.
The people buying these blades from the Chinese factory are likely wholesaling them into markets like Thailand and encouraging people to sell via eBay where the margins are higher. I cannot see them paying any more than about $3 per 100-blade tuck delivered into Thailand. They on-sell these at at a low margin to get rid of them quickly, probably only $5 per 100 blades. This leaves meat on the bone for sellers trying to compete with $10 pillars of Astra SP from trusted online sellers such as BestShave.net and the like.
But it seems that the Thai sellers are pushing them out into the market place in Thailand but they have leftovers. So they sell them online at a 1600% profit margin. I know eBay fees are high but they certainly aren’t requiring margins like that. Of course you might have people buying them from shops because they are cheap, and selling them on eBay. Who knows, but the money being made is obscene. All from counterfeit blades.
As a guy who appreciates a good shave, I did switch away from your standard Gillette or Schick multi-blade cartridges and ‘canned foam/gel’ method of shaving and went back to the method that many of our fathers and grandfathers used to use to remove facial hair – double-edge shaving.
Now this bought a few nice benefits – a better shave, less irritation and bumps/ingrown hairs, and a much more relaxing and satisfying experience. When you can lather up in the morning with a nice soft badger brush and some quality shaving cream like one from Taylor of Old Bond Street or even the old Italian standby Proraso, it is always a great start to the day.
Generally Gillette et. al do not want western markets shaving with Double edge blades, as they would prefer to sell us a 3-4-5 blade cartridge from anywhere from $3-$6 each. Since the invention of eBay, sellers from other markets can deliver 100 top quality double edge blades into western markets for the price of around $20-$30, making each blade worth around 30 cents. This makes shaving much cheaper, enjoyable and generally better. A whole swag of businesses have sprung up online selling all sorts of shaving related items, even new double-edge razors, brushes, blades, shaving soaps, creams, aftershaves. Even the old ‘cut-throat’ razors are making a comeback – generally better known as ‘Straight Razors’ – along with all the things needed to keep them sharp like sharpening stones & strops. A very good Australian based seller is MensBiz, with whom I have had good experiences with fast delivery, even if the prices are a bit higher than buying from overseas.
Unfortunately with this new found popularity has meant that unscrupulous manufacturers in China who can produce a very low quality blade for about half of one cent will package them up to look like a higher quality, known brand blade. While the profits may not be very large on a per-unit basis, in volume it can turn into a very lucrative business.
I spotted some of these blades on eBay recently – hideously expensive at USD$40 per 100 and USD$18 postage. Not a blade I am familiar with, but having tried the Thai Gillette Superthins previously which were pretty good, these had my attention immediately. The packaging is fairly eyecatching:
So far, so good. The packing follows the ‘double-split’ packaging that we get from the Indian-made Gillete 7 O’Clock Blacks. Then I started looking a bit closer to the remaining photos:
Oh dear. That is another decent yet clumsy effort to pass of cheap Chinese blades as a quality Gillette product.
It seems that these low-quality blades were produced by a company in China called “RunWei Blade”, and those in the traditional shaving circles already know they are producing bad fakes of the Chinese Blue Blades that are usually made in the Gillette Joint Venture factory in Shanghai. Those “FakeBlues” seem to make their way to the West via eBay and DX, now it looks like they are also doing the same for these Thai Super Stainless. I am not even aware of these SuperStainless even being a real branding of Gillette Blades.
If you look closely at the second photo, you will notice the cardboard cracking along the folds of the box. Those that have been around the wetshaving forums like Paste & Cut for a while will know that the counterfeit Gillette Rubie Platinum Plus suffered from the same issues on the box, as did the ‘Fakeidiums’ – the nickname for counterfeit Super Iridium blades.
Also you see some non-sharp printing, and the box isn’t made ‘in Square’ and it is not glued together properly either. All the hallmarks of the previously fake blades. Here’s a pic of the Rubie’s which I previously published to various Shaving Forums showing the delamination of the cardboard on the box folds:
And one of the Fakeidiums:
There are a number of sellers of these on eBay, I would steer clear of them all for ANY purchase. All originate from Thailand and are selling them at anything from USD$58 – USD$70 per 100 blades on a delivered basis.
It is a shame but I am posting this information in the hope that nobody gets caught out by purchasing these blades. The pricing is crazily high, and even more so when you consider that great blades like PermaSharp Supers and Silver Blues are in plentiful supply and at much cheaper rates than what the asking price is on these.
If you want to know more about trying out more traditional methods of shaving and some of the great products you can use, I would highly recommend Paste & Cut for those in Australia and New Zealand. The community there is small but active and is more than happy to share their knowledge with newcomers.