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Mar 17, 2020

Beauty in a Time of the Coronavirus

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In the last few weeks, COVID-19 went from being a news update in the U.S., to a crisis accelerating faster than most could have imagined and changing by the hour. We are living in unprecedented times, with governments and industries navigating challenges that have never been seen before. Schools, stores, and even entire countries are shutting down all around us, while in the U.S. we are all directed to stay home.

What does this mean for the beauty industry? Interestingly, just a few days ago my local friends reported how their hair and nail salons were bustling with people. This validates the emotional component of our industry. As we are directed to self-isolate for our own safety and that of others, women still want to look and feel beautiful, even if they’ll be living in pajamas at home for the next several weeks.

How will this impact beauty routines and sales? Personally, due to a positive coronavirus case in my community, I am on day seven of social distancing. I have washed my hair once and worn no makeup in that time. My skincare routine, however, remains intact. Are other women following the same pattern? How will these behaviors play out in NPD’s weekly beauty sales as we move through March?

During January and February, total U.S. prestige beauty sales grew 3% in dollars, with skincare showing stronger performance than makeup and fragrance. For the week ending February 29, dollar and unit in-store sales grew 4% for total beauty, and 13% for skincare. Looking at weekly sales year-to-date through March 7, NPD data shows that the steepest declines in-store have thus far occurred in the week ending March 7. The impacts will surely change as the weeks go on, especially as stores temporarily close their doors.

While there is uncertainty in brick-and-mortar, online platforms are poised to offset physical retail. Online captures less than one-quarter of total prestige beauty sales, but it’s a mighty force in the market; in fact, it was online growth that buoyed the overall prestige beauty industry in 2019. Into 2020, online sales continue to grow faster than in-store. Given the current store closures, can we expect to see more sales shift online in the weeks ahead?

The beauty industry knows disruption. But in these uncharted waters, how do we navigate our next move and what can we do to ensure the health and safety of our consumers? We are an industry that comes together and supports the bigger purpose. LVMH is a shining example of this as they recently announced a plan to transform their perfume factories to create free hand sanitizer for European hospitals in desperate need.

This is our new normal, for the time being. The uncertainty ahead of us is unequalled and its impact remains a question. But the eternal optimist in me knows this too shall pass. I remind my children of the words of Maya Angelou, “Every storm runs out of rain.” When it does, we will return to life as we knew it and go back to focusing on finding the perfect lipstick shade for a well-deserved night out.



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