Lipstick—and night cream—under your mask
Like the rest of the world, the sales scales in India tipped towards skincare more than make-up in the era of covid-19
It is said that lipstick sales rose during the Great Depression even though industrial production halved in the US and most other industries suffered. The predominant explanation is that when people cannot spend money on big purchases, a product like a lipstick can be a small-yet-affordable luxury that can make you feel and look good. But how can one flaunt that luscious red ₹3,000 Givenchy lipstick under a mask while on a grocery run today? Much as you may want to, you cannot—and this is reflected in the drop in sales across the world. Yet, though stores may be closed and there may be no places to visit, the need to feel and look good has increased the market share for skincare, a trend that has been seen in India too.
According to data by market research company NPD Group, make-up sales dropped by 22% in the US in the first quarter of 2020. For a segment which relies heavily on personal interaction and trials, the closure of stores spelt disaster. The first-quarter financial results for American beauty giant Ulta Beauty Inc. showed sales were down by 33%; an increase was seen only after kerbside pickups were allowed in April.
However, if the innumerable, pre-coronavirus and current skincare routine videos on the internet are any indicator, consumer interest in skincare and self-care has increased. A recent report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. confirms this, noting that the interest in self-care and pamper trends has benefited the skincare, haircare and bath-and-body products segment. In Europe, sales of luxury hand soap in France were up 800% in the week starting 16 March as the country went into lockdown. Zalando, Europe’s largest fashion and lifestyle e-commerce company, also saw a 300% hike in the pampering and self-care beauty categories, including aromatherapy and detox products. Ulta Beauty reported a similar trend: The share of cosmetics sales in revenue dropped from 53% last year to 49%, but skincare rose from 21% to 24%.
India too reflected a similar trend. While Sephora India has seen a strong bounce-back since the opening of stores (it has almost reached 77% of its sales from the pre-covid period), the lockdown saw skincare becoming a bigger slice of the pie than make-up, according to Vivek Bali, CEO, Sephora India. “While at home, people have more time to follow extensive hair and beauty routines and we have seen a strong trend for skincare and haircare go up. Skincare is bigger in north, west and south India, and east India is interested in haircare more," says Bali.
“There is a slight shift in make-up trends—eye make-up (mascaras, eyeliners and eyeshadow) sales have in fact increased compared to June 2019," says Bali. Lipstick sales are down but Bali believes that a woman who is used to lipstick will continue to use it, regardless of a mask. The drop in lipstick sales hasn’t been substantial owing to the variety of lip products available; these include transfer-proof lipsticks, which are doing well.
The skincare segment is led by masks, cleansers, toners and moisturizers; hand creams, hand and body lotions are doing well too. Luxury Ayurveda brand Forest Essentials saw many queries on the right way to use products meant for different skin types. This encouraged it to launch customized creams, designed post a consultation by an Ayurvedic expert —a practice that had been discontinued.
“Covid-19 has influenced consumers’ spending habits and purchase decisions. As Indians stay inside and isolate themselves, some are finding comfort in skincare and self-care. A quick scroll through social media also seems to indicate this. People are nurturing, nourishing and taking care of their skin and hair at this time as there is no requirement for make-up. This time offers a much-needed break from make-up, enabling them to be finally comfortable in their own skin," says Anupam Kapoor, head of supply chain and manufacturing, Forest Essentials.
In addition to skincare and products that can be used for creating DIY salon experiences at home, the company has seen a rise in the demand for male grooming products. And like France, their luxury hand soaps too have many takers.
With everyone looking for smaller indulgences, the company has continued to see consumer interest in self-care products even as the lockdown eases. “We will see a return of the slow beauty movement, which is a contrast to the fast-paced world of the beauty industry that sells us quick fixes, immediate results and invasive options. Proximity, transparency and trust will be the key elements in the post-covid-19 world as more consumers will become particular about the quality of skincare products. This has boosted the demand for natural and high-quality beauty products," says Kapoor.
Amazon India too reports a spike in the self-grooming categories—feet and hand care, soaps and body washes saw sales rising one-and-a-half times; shampoos, conditioners and face washes saw a 1.2 times jump, and face masks, a 1.3 times spike. “With no access to salons, purchase of professional beauty products and brands like Moroccanoil, O3+, Schwarzkopf and hair colour saw a spike in sales. We also saw a bigger demand for beauty tools like scissors for hair cutting, tweezers, and nail and feet care accessories used for manicure and pedicure," says Mrunmay Mehta, category leader, beauty and luxury beauty, Amazon India.
“The lockdown has led to a drop in sales of make-up, especially with lips and face sub-categories being the most affected. But we are seeing a recovery in demand post lockdown," Mehta adds. They anticipate that a complete recovery may only be possible by the end of the year.
Shoppers Stop too found customers seemed to be prioritizing skincare, with moisturizers, serums and cleansers doing extremely well, though lipsticks and nail polish continued to do well too. “Yes, there was a distinct change in the sales pattern. Beauty, especially skincare, kids wear and home essentials like cookware, bedsheets saw a better response compared to apparel, colour cosmetics and accessories. During the lockdown, customers have grown more aware of the importance of healthy skin and mostly focused on wellness products. With deliveries easing out, orders are going up and that is a good sign for business," says Uma Talreja, customer care associate, chief of marketing and customer officer at Shoppers Stop.
Dhara Vora Sabhnani is a Mumbai-based journalist.
FIRST PUBLISHED19.06.2020 | 05:10 PM IST