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Was Stainless The Death Of DE

I've been reading up on the history of cartridge razors, and see that Gillette held back on the introduction of stainless DE blades because they realised that the longer lasting blades would lead to a massive drop in unit sales and blow apart the "razors and blades" model.
Once Wilkinson went stainless and so became market leaders, Gillette had to follow suit but now the whole market was less profitable. The same "mistake" was made again with the Wilkinson Light Brigades and Personna 74s, both of which had such great longevity that they were unprofitable but which were both withdrawn.
Anyway, to reinstate profit from disposable blades Wilkinson introduced their bonded blades and the cartridge razor was born.
I suppose injectors don't fit this model since they remained economically viable with great blade longevity, and perhaps somebody can explain why this is.
But essentially, it seems that DE shaving began to become less profitable to the manufacturers with the introduction of stainless blades, and it was this that sealed its doom.
Any thoughts people?
That was a major factor, but there were other things, too. There was simply no way to patent anything new that would recreate Gillette's expired monopoly, and cheaper manufacturing combined with zero R&D made the copycats too competitive. Gillette couldn't even claim to have the highest quality blade, at any price. With the immediate success of the Wilkinson cartridge, the marketing superiority of a "new and improved" system was clearly evident. Profit margins were, well, marginal in the DE market, but potentially huge with carts, so cessation of DE razor manufacturing in favor of carts seemed like a teriffic corporate strategy. You only need to convert one generation. Sons will usually shave the way Dad does, unless the lure of "new and improved" is irresistible. Anyway, so the skill which was once passed down from father to son, is lost, and demand for DE plummets.

Remember, King C. Gillette never really cared about our shave. It was all about profit, right from the start. And the DE system was well received, right up into the Trac II era. The money was in carts, so DE was dropped from the lineup. The American public by and large set their DE razors out on the 25 cent table at garage sales, or tossed them outright on the death of the owner. Fewer razors meant fewer blade users. Less developed countries proved a longer lived market, especially for blades, which is why almost all of the better blades are made overseas and not marketed in the U.S. P&G and other grooming giants have a lock on mainstream American shaving, and I am sure they have something to do with the lack of DE blades at Walmart, Target, and many drugstore chains as well as the total absence of DE razors at practically all retailers in the U.S..

If they really cared about our shave quality, they would sell reasonably priced, decent quality straights, along with honing and stropping stuff, and instructional DVDs. But doing so in today's corporate environment would get a CEO dismissed or even taken to court by the stockholders for financial irresponsibility. You may as well say that it is illegal for a corporation to cater to the needs of the consumer with durable goods when disposable stuff can be sold instead and ensure a more continuous profit stream.
I don't think that Gillette held stainless steel blades back, or they would have had a patent on them, and I doubt that stainless steel blades had much negative impact on the sales figures.

Someone likely just came to the conclusion that proprietary designs were the key to future sales success.

Both Gillette and Schick fiddled around with the band blade razors before they settled on the cartridge razors.
It's all about profit. Cartridge razor blades are more profitable than DE blades period however, I can find DE blades in most drug stores although not the popular brands we buy online. With the resurgence of DE shaving that is evident from forums like this one, AoR stores, Crabtree & Evelyn and a few others and the fact that really good/excellent condition DE razors are becoming harder to find for a reasonable price I believe DE shaving will be around forever. or at least a really, really long time. Heck, I can still buy GEM razor blades in the drugstore and the razors have not been produced in like forever. Shave on!
Stainless was the answer to the problem that plagued those vintage carbon steel blades - rust. Stainless didn't rust, or resisted rust much longer, especially microscopically at the cutting edge. While carbon steel can be made sharper typically and will hold an edge under usage longer, it also oxidizes and rusts. No matter how well it holds and edge or stays sharper, it is susceptible to what is called micro oxidation at the cutting edge. That oxidation or micro-corrossion will eventually dull an otherwise sharp edge over time. So even though in theory, cutlery grade carbon steel when properly heat treated and tempered will keep a sharper edge longer, a wet environment caused the user have to changes blades just as frequently due to the micro-edges deteriorating from rust.

As far as what lead to the demise of the DE blade? Same thing that led to the demise of the straight razor in favor of the DE. Americans have always wanted quick convenience and are willing to pay a premium for it. Hence the overpriced 5-6 blades pivoting cartridges that plague us these days. On a grand scale and faster than we care to believe it, we've largely replaced skills with technology.
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I don't fault gillette at all for going the route they did. They created a solid cartidge that basically made shaving effective and idiot proof and in doing so made a boatload of money. As with most things in the West, we chose convenience over quality.

If there is any issue I have with them, it's with the way they are currently conducting themselves. With the market cornered, they have dramatically inflated their prices beyond what I believe is fair market value. As a result, we're seeing an uptick in both the amount of bearded men walking around, and those going the traditional wet shaving route.

The only way anyone can hold onto a monopoly in the free market is if they are offering the best possible product at the best possible price. Gillette is doing neither right now.
I don't think that Gillette held stainless steel blades back, or they would have had a patent on them, and I doubt that stainless steel blades had much negative impact on the sales figures.

Someone likely just came to the conclusion that proprietary designs were the key to future sales success.

Gillette did hold a key patent on coated stainless steel blades. Even though they were last to market, their competitors ended up paying license fees. See http://www.google.com/patents/US3071856 which was filed in 1959, before Wilkinson introduced coated stainless blades. Gillette sales tanked during the period when Wilkinson, Personna, and Schick were all selling coated stainless blades and Gillette was not.

Agreed that this was bad for profits: they probably made more money on carbon steel, and certainly on proprietary designs. But coated stainless DE blades remained readily available for years, and are still around today.
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