Those affordable luxuries can act as a pick-me-up for the millions who are self-isolating but hope to maintain at least part of the grooming routine they followed before the coronavirus.
Leonard Lauder, son of Estée Lauder and the chairman of The Estée Lauder Companies, has championed “the lipstick effect,” as this phenomenon is known, suggesting that people will buy cosmetics no matter how bad the economy gets. The idea dates back to the Great Depression, and industry watchers point to sales spikes in 2001 and 2008. Some have challenged the notion of lipstick as an economic marker, but early signs indicate momentum in the beauty sector even as McKinsey and BoF forecast fashion sales plunging by nearly one-third this year.
So why the uptick in eye products specifically?
Many want to appear fresh-faced and “awake” on video calls with coworkers, and it doesn’t take much skill to achieve that effect with eye makeup. Plus, the adoption of masks, scarves, bandanas and other protective coverings has put increased emphasis on the top portion of the face. Dramatic lashes and using concealer to brighten under the eyes has taken on new importance in the morning routine.
It’s this demand, plus previous investments in digital channels, that could help beauty retailers buck a recession, said Oliver Wright, global lead for consumer goods at Accenture.
“Retailers that have an online presence or brands with a strong direct to consumer presence – these have the upper hand,” said Andrea Szasz, principal in the consumer practice at Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm.
This will define consumption for the decade.
Now that consumers have no choice but to shop online, these tactics will only grow in importance. E-commerce sales are spiking, and the channel won’t give up all of those gains even after stores reopen, analysts say.
“[The pandemic] hasn’t introduced trends we weren’t aware of, it’s the scale and speed with which a lot of these online sentiments have emerged,” said Wright.
Jessica Richards, founder of Shen Beauty, closed her Brooklyn boutique on March 16 and turned her attention to the store’s web site, where sales for March were up by 71 percent year over year.
So are requests for virtual eyebrow consultations. Eyebrow shaping and tinting was a key part of Shen Beauty’s business, which offers services such as facials, microblading, waxing and makeup application. As a result, the retailer will launch digital brow sessions to walk customers through tinting their own brows, either mailing or preparing the products needed for pick-up followed by a virtual tutorial.
The access to digital tools like augmented reality and virtual try-on — or virtual brow consults for Shen Beauty — will drive in-home consumer experiences during the outbreak, said Wright.
“This will define consumption for the decade,” Wright said of the pandemic. “This scale of shifting in the data does...indicate that it is a fundamental reexamination of consumption behaviour.”