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VENDOR Interview - The Grooming Lounge

Name: Michael Gilman
Title: Co-Founder
Company: Grooming Lounge & GroomingLounge.com
Location: Washington, D.C.
Years in the industry: All My Life

Could you provide a brief history of The Grooming Lounge? What inspired you to get into the shaving arena?
Both my business partner and I grew up in the personal care industry. My family ran a distributorship of professional beauty supplies and my business partner started cutting hair and barbering at age 14. At an industry event in 1998, we started chatting and realized we were the “go-go-guys” for our circles of friends when it came to getting grooming supplies. They just felt more comfortable getting the stuff from us than in a salon or department store. That set off a light bulb and we knew we had to do something in this arena. We knew we had to create outlets where guys could easily and comfortably get the products and services they desired.

Who is on your team at the Grooming Lounge?
We really have quite a few people now. It’s amazing to think that we started with three and now there are more than 60 great folks working with us. These Loungers are spread across our three physical stores and barbershops, our online operation and our corporate office. Although we’re expanding, we always hope to operate with a small company mentality.

Why is the company called The Grooming Lounge? Did your initial business plan revolve around Internet sales or a brick and mortar store (or both)?
The name Grooming Lounge just worked for us. It kind of says it all. Only down side is that it has become a bit generic as of late as a few me-too companies are using it as a descriptor for their business (Jim’s Place… A Men’s Grooming Lounge).

In terms of our original plans, we had always hoped to have both an online and physical presence. The online storefront came first as developing a web site was a bit easier than convincing a D.C. landlord to give us prime space for a then unproven concept.

How has wet shaving’s popularity grown since you have been in business?
I don’t know that more men are wet shaving now than did when we first opened, but I’m very confident that men are infinitely more aware of the available products and techniques than they were eight years ago.

What complaints/suggestions for improvement have surprised you the most? How did/will you react to them?

I hate to sound arrogant, but there really haven’t been any consistent complaints in regard to our business. Sure, there have been little things here and there and we take all of those very seriously.

What do you foresee in the future of this renaissance in men's grooming?

Continued growth, knowledge and awareness. It might be hard to believe, but there are even more thresholds for men to cross in this arena. Men are going to continue to realize that solid skincare plays a huge role in how they look and how good their shaves are. This industry really doesn’t have a ceiling for companies that do it right and continue to deliver quality and revolutionary products.

Is most of your advertising by word of mouth?
We rely almost exclusively on word of mouth. We think the proof is in the pudding and a great customer review is infinitely more valuable than a paid ad.

What did you first think when approached by a moderator of a large wetshaving forum to answer questions regarding wetshaving?
Bring it on. Great.

Do the wet shaving forums get mentioned in your shop? If so, how often?
To be honest, I haven’t heard much. That said, we’re not really prodding folks to give us the 411 regarding how they found us or what stuff they review on their computers.

How much business do you receive from the forums?
Very difficult to say.

What’s the best part of running a business in DC?
It’s our hometown and our family and friends are always here. Other than that, there is a certain interest the politics of this town bring with them that never gets old. We have quite a few politicians that frequent our D.C. store and having Secret Service Agents outside the store is always a great reminder of where we’re based.

What demographic do you primarily market your services to?
It’s really just guys who want to take care of themselves. We don’t directly target a certain type of guy. Whether it’s a college student, the lawyer or the line cook, we want to pamper and take care of them all.

Where do you see the business going?

We are going to continue to open barbershops to help men in other parts of the country experience what we’re about. In addition to that, we are about to launch a slew of new Grooming Lounge products in tandem with a catalog that is going to be mind-blowing. We think that by continuing to do things the right way, we can position ourselves as the name in men’s grooming.

I understand you use a Mach 3 to shave, why was that chosen over a traditional straight razor, Feather Artist Club (new straight razor with removable blades) or a Double Edge Razor?
In a nutshell, prior to opening our store, my business partner and I traveled around the world (literally), getting shaves at some of the globes most reknown barbering institutions. All of these places used the straight blade exclusively and while we appreciated the regal ness of it all, to be honest, the shaves were less than mind-blowing.

When we returned to the states, we decided there just had to be a better way to get a close shave while not losing out on the experience. The result we came up with (with some help from the Great Aidan Gill in New Orleans), is a shave that combines the best in tradition (hot towels, hot lather, etc.), with the best in technology (the Mach III). The shave is simply awesome and the experience of getting a shave doesn’t skip a beat.

What other types of services does The Grooming Lounge offer other than a wetshave?
Lots. Haircuts, manicures, foot treatments, skin care, waxing and massages.

Do the manufacturers hear us-The wetshaving community when we speak?
Sure. We always read this stuff and take note.

What’s the best way to find a hard to find item?
It’s gotta’ be the web. You can find absolutely anything.

Can you take special orders for item that you do not stock?

How do you go about choosing the scents that the creams and soaps are made with in your Grooming Lounge products?
We run things by committee here when it comes to the scents and formulas for our Grooming Lounge products. The Barbers and Skin Care experts in our shops give us as much feedback as we can handle. It’s a group effort and once we settle on something that meets everyone’s needs, off we go.

How are your Grooming Lounge products tested? Do you ever need beta testers for new products?
We test them on willing guests and the crew at our shops. And of course, on ourselves a lot. We’re always open to new testers as well. Interested?

Any clues on new products or services that might be available from the Grooming Lounge next year?
Grooming Lounge Hair Care is due to launch in late November and our shave line has been repackaged for launch at the same time. The new hair stuff is first-rate (and of course, Barber tested).

What is your top selling cream? What creams have received the warmest reviews (if different from the top seller)?
We sell a ton of Grooming Lounge Beard Destroyer Shave Cream. It’s our house brand and guys seem to really like it. Besides that, we’ve sold quite a bit of the Trumpers Creams as of late.

Most of the English shave creams are manufactured by Creighton’s. Do you outsource your production your Grooming Lounge products too?
We use a variety of labs to create our products, but they are all custom formulas.

What does your average customer like today for wetshaving items?

Most men are pretty simply. They want a solid cream and a great aftershave. That’s pretty much it. They get more into it after they’ve toe-dipped a bit.

What are some common mistakes made by the new wetshaver? And suggestions you have to relieve those mistakes?
Lack of proper preparation is the most common mistake we see. Most uneducated wet shavers just don’t see the value in properly cleansing or exfoliating the face prior to shaving. We really stress the importance of proper prep.

What are the most popular products by category?
Face Wash: Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel
Shave Oil: Grooming Lounge Shave Oil & Anthony Logistics Shave Oil
Shave Cream: Grooming Lounge Beard Destroyer Shave Cream & Jack Black Beard Lube
After Shave: Grooming Lounge Happy Ending Aftershave & Zirh Soothe

What are the best products for value/price?
I think all the Baxter of California products are a great deal.

What is the most sold item related to wet shaving?
Shave Cream hands down.

What line of wet shaving products has the most sales?
Our stuff and the Jack Black products are great sellers.

Is there a difference in products, ie Grooming Lounge, Trumpers, Truefitt and Hill?
Absolutely… not that one is better or worse than another. It’s just that our Grooming Lounge products are night and day from those in terms of scent, texture, etc. They also work a bit differently.

Do you believe/like that English suppliers like Truefitt and Hill and Geo Trumper’s are changing their formulations?
They are? I think I’m out of the loop here…

What are your favorite products that are no longer made?
There were a slew of Molton Brown products that I used that the company no longer makes. They had some shampoos and colognes that were first rate – but that they’ve since swapped out for other products.

Why do you think they were discontinued or changed?
I guess not everyone loved them as much as I did – or – they just found some other formulas they thought better of.

What are some of the products that are “under the radar” in your business?
There are a couple brands and products that are currently flying under the radar a bit. We just started carrying the (MALIN+GOETZ) brand and those products are fantastic. I expect their recognition to explode in the coming year. Also, the folks at TASK ESSENTIAL make some terrific products that are just starting to gain some traction.

Thank you for the interview.
Bump, moved to the contributors corner on 11/05/07, for your viewing pleasure.

It will be moved (and pruned) to the general forum on 11/12/07.
Great interview. It's a really nice to hear what the American side of the industry is doing and what their take on health and direction of the industry.

Congratulations on a job very well done!!!


"Got Shoes?"
I agree with Ponch. Great interview Art. I enjoyed reading it very much. And thanks for taking the time out to do it.
Agreed. Thank you for doing this Art. Very good interview. I'm actually a big fan of the GL...not just because I think they have some great products, but because they always seem to be able to help me with any skin issues/questions I have. They also have excellent customer service.

Great job on the interview. Will you also give us your review on thier shaves?

Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the shave day due to a very sick child. We had to leave Maryland a day early and I had to cut short my fishing excursion. :frown:
who wants to travel to a business for a shave and then only be treated to a mach III? I would think most people would rather spend the money on a straight shave then someting most people use everyday by themselves at home. I get good shaves at my barber shop and it is no more exclusive than the average.

Done ranting
who wants to travel to a business for a shave and then only be treated to a mach III? I would think most people would rather spend the money on a straight shave then someting most people use everyday by themselves at home. I get good shaves at my barber shop and it is no more exclusive than the average.

Done ranting

+ a million

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