Prestige beauty sales in the UK
decline 24% as online sales soar in 2020 due to COVID-19, reports The NPD Group

London: February 1, 2021:  Prestige beauty sales in the UK declined 24% in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to The NPD Group. Sales of prestige beauty products in brick and mortar stores declined 44% in 2020 when stores were forced to close intermittently due to government restrictions.

COVID-19 has changed consumer buying habits, with many adopting a digital approach to their shopping. However, despite the overall decline in the market, the total prestige beauty market was valued at £2 billion in 2020.

The prestige beauty market online has reported double digit growth in the UK for several years. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend with prestige beauty sales online increasing 47% in 2020. 44% of all prestige beauty sales in 2020 were purchased online an increase of 21% points compared to 2019.

Fragrance in focus

Fragrance demonstrated its resilience in 2020 and was one of the best performing categories in prestige beauty. In 2020 total prestige fragrance sales declined 17%, seven points less than the overall prestige beauty market. The first lockdown had a negative impact on sales in the fragrance market and 50% of the year’s total losses can be attributed to the period from April to June. When stores reopened, recovery was in sight, and the market showed promising signs, performing positively in November, growing 2%, despite the second lockdown. In 2019, 52% of fragrance sales occurred in the last three months of the year. October to December 2020 accounted for 57% mix of full year sales, confirming that fragrances remain one of the most important Christmas gifts for consumers.

Skincare and selfcare

Skincare came into sharp focus in 2020.  It was the most resilient category during the first lockdown as consumers maintained their skincare routine. The skincare category declined 21% in 2020, but sales of anti-acne serums increased by 51% in value in 2020 as mask wearing created new needs. Sales of prestige hand soaps grew 38% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Following the #selfcare trend, prestige bodycare gained more than 1% of market share due to the popularity of body creams, lotions and spray as consumers turned to spa-at-home routines.


Make-up was the most challenged category in 2020 which declined 40% compared to 2019. Remote-working, reduced social life and the trend for natural makeup led to a decrease in demand. For example, sales of lip make-up declined 50%, due to the government regulations to wear face masks.

Emma Fishwick, account manager, NPD UK Beauty says: “The UK’s prestige beauty industry has been hugely challenged in 2020, however brands and retailers remain resilient and the trends we witnessed in previous years have accelerated during the pandemic. This includes the growth of online sales, the importance of a multi-channel retail approach, and the influence of social media on a consumers path to purchase.”