Why gussy up with nowhere to go? Beauty sales see slump

Orlando Sentinel - - Wall Street Report - By Julie Creswell

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.”

TAY­LOR JOHN­SON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Sales of higher-end beauty prod­ucts sold through re­tail­ers like Ulta Beauty have dropped 14% in the first quar­ter.

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