As I write this, over two-thirds of the U.S. population is heeding some type of stay at home order. Staying healthy is everyone’s number one priority and, beyond that, trying to maintain some sense of normalcy under these circumstances is also top of mind for many. My teenage son started a 30-day workout challenge to stay fit; a friend told me he puts on jeans every day to feel more put together while working from home; my co-worker always applies lipstick before her video conference meetings for the same reason. I can’t say I’m likely to do any of these things, but I have been partaking in some type of self-care from a beauty perspective. Outside of the obsessive hand washing, I’m making sure to moisturize my skin, do my own nails, and light the occasional scented candle when I start to feel stressed and need an olfactive getaway.
Through NPD’s weekly prestige beauty sales data, I’ve come to discover that I am not alone. In the U.S., overall dollar sales are in decline right now due to temporary store closings, which is impacting retail nationwide. But there are several bright spots in beauty, as it appears that many consumers are partaking in self-care and creating a home spa environment as well. Total beauty sales declined by 58% in the week ending March 28 versus the prior year; however, in this week of double-digit declines across nearly every segment in prestige beauty, products like body oils, home scents, nail care, and hair color all posted sales growth, and some in the double-digits.
It’s no surprise that staying home has also led to a rise in online sales. In terms of dollar share, online typically accounts for around 20% of total prestige beauty industry sales; however, in the latest week, online sales grew by 47% and captured close to 90% of total industry spend. With physical stores temporarily closed, online represents nearly all of the industry volume today. Staying home also provides a unique opportunity to experiment with different beauty products with minimal risk; if it doesn’t yield favorable results or your skin has a reaction, no one has to see it. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the best performing beauty products online included lash growth serums, boosters, and essences.
Both the short- and long-term implications of this pandemic on the beauty industry are significant. In the short-term, sales will be hit hard, but looking further ahead the growth opportunities are strong. Clean beauty, which is already an important trend to watch, will be amplified as consumers re-interpret what safety means to them. In addition, when emotions run high, opportunities abound in categories that are intrinsically linked to emotion. Beauty provides confidence, hope, a temporary escape, and—contrary to today’s more formal definition—beauty is essential. If you doubt that, think about this: what is the first thing most people will do when they emerge from quarantine? I’d be willing to bet that hair salons, nail salons, and barbershops will be overrun. Normalcy is what we all crave right now, and beauty will be a fundamental component of our return to it when we reemerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Source: The NPD Group/ Weekly Retail Tracking Service/ Week Ending March 28, 2020 versus same week in 2019