Gillette, Wilkinson and Schick

Unbeatable Gillette Razor Blades
Unbeatable Gillette Razor Blades

Unbeatable Gillette Razor Blades

Gillette, Wilkinson and Schick

Right after Abe Menashe decided to devote himself to business, he met Phil Gordon, an American industrialist who had married an ex-girlfirend of Abe’s.  He’d  photographed her as a Meikles (department store) model.

Phil said “Let’s do something together.  What’s a very good line that’s not in South Africa?”

“Razor blades.”

They tried importing razor blades from overseas and making their own in South Africa.  But you can’t fight Gillette, Wilkinson and Schick.

Gillette, Wilkinson and Schick

But then Harold Wilson’s government clamped down on Gillette, Wilkinson and Schick as part of the sanctions on Rhodesia.   Now Abe and Phil were able to bring in these blades from South Africa.

Abe said “Phil, if I go to Salisbury to get a permit to bring in razor blade machines they’ll never give it to me.  I’ve just stood against the government.  Everyone, as you know, is nasty to me: the finance department and exchange control.  Phil, we’re  partners.  They have nothing against you.  You apply for the permit.”

Phil got the permit.  Off Abe went to Germany to buy the machines for the razor blades. Within three months they were operational in Rhodesia.

The Rhodesian government put a complete ban on importation of razor blades, even from South Africa.

Their blades were retailed for 23 cents.  The wholesaler and retailer took forty percent.  That left them nearly 14 cents.  It was costing one cent to make them.  They were stamping money.  They couldn’t make them fast enough.   And it was big.  Africans used razor blades for lots of things.  Then they took the whole African market in South African.

But the Europeans were still resistant.  They had trouble making a blade sharp enough.  Abe went to American Safety Razor Blade, part of Persona, which is part of the Phillip Morris Group.  They made the best razor blade in the world.  He went to their factory in Bornem in Brussels that made them for the European market. But they couldn’t get onto the world market because of…you guessed it… Gillette, Wilkinson and  Schick! 

They saw Abe coming.  He gave them orders. He agreed to buy blades, but on condition they were put in Abe’s gold covers under the name of Swiss blades.  The Swiss wrote and said “you can’t use ‘Swiss.’”  Abe said, “You are supposed to be neutral.  Go and argue it with the United Nations or my government.”

Phil Gordon went to the government and said “Look, its going to take a time, six to twelve months, for us to make a  blade for Europeans.  Give us a small permit to import blades before we we make our own.  They were issued a permit of  ten thousand US dollars.  The imported blade cost one cent.   They sold at 65 cents, less forty percent.

Abe and Phil were rich.  They toasted Harold Wilson.

Thanks to Abe Menashe for the story.