I went to the mall this past weekend and what I saw surprised me: lots of people. I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t crowds. This year has been anything but typical, and we anticipate the holiday season will follow the same pattern. The fourth quarter is a big unknown, but what I saw at the mall was promising. As we head into this key time period, there are several key prestige beauty markers we are watching in the U.S. that will have an impact on holiday spending and beyond.

As we have seen in other industries including apparel and footwear, beauty’s online sales growth accelerated amid the brick-and-mortar closures this year. But as growth has remained strong for beauty, it has slowed following the re-openings of physical stores across the country. So, while e-commerce sales have shown the full weight of their importance, we must recognize that brick-and-mortar is still very much alive. My recent trip to the mall proved it. That said, e-commerce penetration will probably stay well above pre-COVID-19 levels, so optimization across both channels will be more important than ever.

The shift from experience to product gifting is beauty’s biggest opportunity yet. In fragrance, the most traditional of beauty gifts, signs are really positive for a hopeful holiday if we look to the other key gifting periods of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, both of which have seen an acceleration of growth over the past three years – even during the COVID-19 crisis.

Makeup may have lost market share this year, yet it remains a powerful force in the beauty industry. It typically represents over a third of sales in Q4, putting $2.2 billion at stake. According to NPD’s recent Makeup Consumer Report, fewer women are wearing makeup today and the ones that are, are wearing it less often. This is a pain point being felt in beauty’s sales results, but opportunity is there. How can we, as an industry, message makeup as a creative outlet, a return to normalcy, and a need in our new virtual world?

This leads me into the self-care story, which has been everywhere. In this spirit of self-care and doing something good for ourselves, consumers may be more inclined to self-gift this year – because won’t we all want to congratulate ourselves for making it to 2021? But even beyond the self-gift, self-care related gifts for others are an opportunity as well. Brands and retailers need to make it easier for consumers to decide which beauty products to buy for everyone on their list, including themselves.

If my latest trip to the mall it is any indicator, consumers are ready to spend. Even so, from our festive gatherings to how and where we shop for those special gifts, this holiday season—much like the year itself—will be quite different than what we’re used to. Nevertheless, there is beauty to be found this holiday.