How online shave king cut the price of razors but not the quality

After initially selling shaving products via the traditional retailers, Oscar de Vries shifted the focus of his eponymously named business OSCAR RAZOR to a subscription-based model that home delivers German-made razors and shaving products.

Oscar de Vries has been the entrepreneurial type since he graduated with an economics degree from Erasmus University Rotterdam in 1983. After a spell marketing automotive accessories via newspapers and magazines in the UK, he followed the Australian he’d married down under in 1996.

For almost a decade he published the Australian edition of a Formula One racing magazine. In 2003, seeing “the chilly winds of change” beginning to blow through the media sector he got out of publishing. He then imported English shaving products for years before deciding in 2008 he’d create a range of shaving products.

“Australia offers a great lifestyle, but I was surprised by how risk-averse the business culture was when I first moved here,” says de Vries. “I expected it to be like America, with that new world, frontier mentality. I soon discovered it was almost as conservative as England.”

From supermarket shelves to direct sales

De Vries is anything but conservative. He laughingly describes himself as a “shameless self-promoter”. In fact, the only surprising thing about him launching an eponymous range of shaving products is that it took him so long to get around to it.

“In 2008 I launched my OSCAR Natural range of Australian-made shaving preparations,” he says. “I approached Coles and Woolworths and got my products on their shelves, but as a small business, I found it challenging.”

He was looking for alternatives that would give him more control over the distribution when he discovered the Dollar Shave Club. The California-based business had launched in 2011 with a business model based on mailing out razors and related grooming products.

Inspired, he spent time sourcing a better alternative and eventually found an excellent German-made razor to sell alongside his shaving range.

“I now feel we have created a one-stop shop for men who value quality and convenience, without paying through the nose,” he says.

As it turned out, getting inspired was the easy part. “I was happy to fund as much of what became OSCAR RAZOR as I could myself, but I still needed more money. Fortunately, I did find a handful of small investors who were willing to back my idea.”

The personal touch

Next came the challenge of getting Australian men to order their shaving equipment online

“Australia is a shopping centre-orientated country, perhaps more so than anywhere in the world,” de Vries says. “People here are used to going to the mall to buy what they need. Getting them to trust a new online brand was a challenge. That’s why I made myself part of the brand. I wanted to convey to consumers that OSCAR RAZOR wasn’t some giant faceless corporation, but the creation of a guy who’d been shaving for three decades and had spent a decade in the skincare business. I want customers to feel they’ve got a personal relationship with the business. If a customer sends an email to OSCAR RAZOR, we make the effort to answer to answer it personally.”

OSCAR RAZOR works on a subscription model. While there are several options, the most popular package involves quarterly home deliveries, starting with a ‘Welcome Gift box’. It contains 12 razors, a razor handle, OSCAR shaving gel and shaving oil.

“Customers can go online and cancel their subscription at any time,” he says. “Nonetheless, it’s a much more attractive business model, having that revenue more or less locked in.”

Plugged in

While de Vries appreciates many of the services NAB offers, he’s been most excited by the bank’s commitment to staying on the technological cutting-edge.

“Ever since I set up the OSCAR RAZOR website I’ve been impressed by NAB’s technology in software programs and payment systems,” he says.