Why gussy up with nowhere to go? Beauty sales see slump
Amie Wohrer reached her limit about three weeks into the shutdown.
Her hair had grown out, losing its shape and style. The gray strands she meticulously hid through trips to her hairdresser every few weeks were becoming increasingly visible. So, desperate, Wohrer, a 40-year-old mother of five from Lancaster, Ohio, did something she hadn’t done in 20 years: She colored her own hair. Then she went one step further and, with the help of some YouTube videos, gave herself a quarancut.
“My daughters were a little leery,” she said, “but after the fact, they were all really impressed.”
The coronavirus shutdowns have upended many daily routines, including those around beauty, skin care and hair care. Some people are taking matters into their own hands, sending sales of do-it-yourself hair color kits, hair trimmers and nail polish soaring at retailers in recent weeks.
But others have simply stopped morning makeup regimens. For beauty companies and retailers, the combination of store closures and consumers who see little need to put on blush or mascara when they’re stuck at home is a serious issue.
In late March, e.l.f. Beauty said it saw a “significant decline” in retail sales in the last two weeks of that month. The company’s stock is down 40% since mid-February.
Sales at Estée Lauder Companies dropped 11% in its fiscal third quarter, which ended March 31. Its stock is down 20% since mid-February.
Retailers Ulta Beauty and Sephora, owned by LVMH, closed stores and furloughed tens of thousands of employees, although Sephora is paying its full-time employees through the end of May. LVMH said the business group that includes Sephora fell 26% in the first quarter as stores in China, then Europe and the United States were shut.
Sales of higher-end beauty products through department stores and retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora dropped about 14% in the first quarter, said Larissa Jensen, a vice president at the NPD Group, a research firm. Sales of mass beauty items at drugstores, which stayed open, slid 4%, according to other analysts.
In some ways, the trend away from makeup predated the pandemic.
For several years, cosmetic companies had experienced boom times as people bought contouring kits and eye-shadow palettes and watched hours of YouTube videos showing them how to achieve the picture-perfect Instagram face.
But since peaking in 2017, sales of makeup have slowed. Many women instead embraced a more natural appearance with an increased emphasis on skin care.
Sales of skin-care products had been on the uptick for the past three years, Jensen said. And in recent weeks, sales of skin-care products surpassed makeup sales for the first time, she said.
The French company L’Oréal, for instance, said gains in sales in brands that focus on skin care, like Kiehl’s or CeraVe, had helped balance out declines in the makeup brands Maybelline New York and NYX Professional Makeup.
Some of those sales come from customers like Adriana Salazar, who said she had found herself staying in bed all day after being laid off from her restaurant job in Houston. She gave up her normal skin-care routine, and her skin broke out.
So Salazar repurchased all of her normal skin-care products and added a $25 vitamin C brightening serum.
“I fell into a rut — all motivation for doing anything was pretty much gone,” Salazar said. “It’s very easy to get down on yourself for not being productive or finding something new to learn. So the least I could do is take care of my skin.”
Sales of higher-end beauty products sold through retailers like Ulta Beauty have dropped 14% in the first quarter.