Edgewell Personal Care is the shaving and personal products business formed from the spin-off by what was then Energizer Holdings of its battery business. Several years earlier, Energizer had responded to the acquisition of main rival Duracell by Gillette (and subsequently P&G) with its own move into grooming and personal care. In 2003, it became the global #2 in blades and razors following the purchase of the Schick and Wilkinson Sword brands, and further strengthened its position in 2010 with a deal for #3 player American Safety Razor. The group then entered the general personal care sector in 2007 with the acquisition of Playtex Products, whose brands included Playtex tampons and rubber gloves as well as Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic sunscreens. Another change of strategy followed P&G's decision to sell Duracell. The battery business was spun off as a new company, which adopted the corporate name Energizer Holdings, and consolidated its shaving and personal care operations under the new name Edgewell Personal Care. The company continues to expand its footprint with selective acquisitions.
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Schick Wilkinson Sword was the combination of the two main challengers to Gillette in North America and Europe respectively. Schick had been founded in the 1920s by Jacob Schick, a former US Army colonel. His first invention was the Magazine Repeating Razor, inspired by the army repeating rifle, a wet shave razor which held replacement blades in the handle, ready to be slid into position without the need to be handled directly. This was introduced in 1926, later improved upon and relaunched as the Schick Injector razor. The following year, Schick launched his design for the very first electrically powered shaver, which was as safe as a safety razor but had the added attraction of being powered by the magic of electricity. However the prototype was also extremely cumbersome, requiring two-handed operation. Yet Schick was so convinced that this new sort of "dry shaver" would eliminate the need for traditional razors that he sold his shares in the Magazine Repeating Razor Company to concentrate on the more high-tech device.
He launched the dry shaver commercially in around 1930, but sales were slow, even after the introduction of a more compact one-handed version in 1931. Schick himself died in 1937, but the company continued to develop smaller and better versions of his invention, eventually under the name Schick Inc. However, other companies were quick to follow in Schick's footsteps and his electric shaver company eventually closed its doors in 1979. Its assets were acquired by the Norelco subsidiary of Dutch company Philips. Meanwhile, the Magazine Repeating Razor Company not only outlived its inventor but prospered. It was acquired by blade manufacturer Eversharp in 1946, and was renamed the Schick Safety Razor Company. Eventually, in 1969, the business was acquired by healthcare manufacturer Warner-Lambert, which already controlled an influential portfolio of drugstore products. By this time, Schick was also enjoying the benefits of a new product line, having acquired the US rights to a new process whereby stainless steel razor blades were coated with the non-stick material Teflon to provide a more smoother and comfortable shave. This system had been developed by a British company, Wilkinson Sword. The licensing agreement provided an ironic foretaste of the subsequent merger of the two companies.
Wilkinson Sword traces its roots as far back as 1805 when James Wilkinson inherited from his father-in-law a business which manufactured fine military weaponry, mainly rifles and bayonets. Among other honours it was officially designated as the royal gun maker for King George III. The business was in turn taken over by Wilkinson's own son, who began to make swords as well, developing new processes to strengthen and sharpen their blades. Although designed initially for everyday military use, these finely worked and expensive swords soon earned a reputation as among the finest in the world, and were widely endorsed by European royalty. During the 1850s, after Wilkinson's gunmaking operations were taken over by the British government, the business began to specialise in this field, adopting the name of the The Wilkinson Sword Company in 1879. However the shrinking market for ceremonial swords, and its expertise in the production of fine blades led Wilkinson Sword to diversify further, and it began production of straight-edge shaving razors in the early 1890s. In 1898, the it was one of the first companies in the world to introduce a safety razor, which became known as the Pall Mall, and in the 1920s, it began to introduce other bladed consumer products such as garden tools and pruning shears. In the 1956, Wilkinson Sword was the first manufacturer to introduce double-edged razor blades made from stainless steel, a material which substantially improved their strength and durability. This and other innovations, such as the introduction of Teflon-coated blades in 1961, and bonded blades encased in a plastic housing from 1970, substantially expanded Wilkinson Sword's business, not only in the UK, where it had by now captured around half the shaving market, but also in the rest of Europe.
During the 1970s, however, the business began to lose its way. The Wilkinson family finally cashed out in 1973, selling the business to British Match Corporation in 1973, and it went through a succession of other owners over the following years, including investment company Allegheny International and Swedish Match. In 1989 it was acquired by Dutch investment company Eemland Holdings, but that purchase was subsequently over-ruled by competition regulators because Eemland was itself part-owned by Gillette. The company diversified during the period, launching Electric Glide electric shavers and Cricket disposable lighters. However, as a result of various corporate restructurings and the simultaneous global expansion of Gillette, Wilkinson Sword's position in the European blades and razors market was steadily eroded. The business was finally rescued from long term decline in 1993, when it was acquired by Warner-Lambert and merged with Schick. But there was still no end just yet to the succession of new owners. In 2000, Warner-Lambert was itself acquired by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which gradually began to sell off non-core parts of the business. Schick Wilkinson Sword was sold on to Energizer Holdings in 2003 for $930m (see separate profile for history of Energizer).
Four years after its acquisition of Schick Wilkinson Sword, Energizer Holdings opened another front in its long-running rivalry with Duracell and its latest owner Procter & Gamble, by acquiring Playtex Products, whose biggest-selling brand was the main competitor to P&G's Tampax. Playtex Products was originally formed in the 1950s as a sideline to International Playtex, the company best-known for its bras, corsets and girdles, which were made from a combination of lace and latex. Putting its latex manufacturing process to wider use, Playtex turned over part of its facilities in 1954 to the production of rubber household gloves, at the time the first of their kind. The success of this new Playtex family products range led to the introduction of other latex-based products such as disposable teats for infant feeding bottles, followed by pacifiers and other infant products. Later the company acquired a sanitary protection business and launched its own line of Playtex tampons. Following the acquisition of Playtex underwear by Sara Lee in 1991, the family products division was eventually spun off as a separate business in 1994. It acquired Smile Tote infant products later the same year, and took control of suncare brand Banana Boat in 1995. After a further 12 years as an independent company, it was acquired by Energizer in October 2007 for $1.9bn. See full profile for current activities
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