Beauty and the pandemic

Beauty and the pandemic
Published: 6 May 2020

The beauty industry has shown some resilience over this challenging period, but will it come back even stronger than before? Without a doubt, the step up in digital investment made by the beauty and cosmetics sector over the last decade is now standing it in good stead to facilitate and drive sales during lockdown. But, as fabulous as these digital advancements are, these are channels to showcase and sell the products our favourite brands are making. What if the product portfolio isn’t right? Business leaders now need to be closer than ever to their consumers to secure, not only recovery, but sustainable growth.

Ahead of the game

A digital offering is a no-brainer for the beauty and cosmetics industry, for both small and large businesses. A direct to consumer (D2C) strategy has been a key enabler for start-ups, whilst the big players are also investing into not only having a digital offering but enhancing the experience for their consumers.

Beauty was crowned the strongest growing market in March. Enter COVID-19 and a mixed performance through product categories. As one would envisage, the sale of skincare products is holding steady and may even see a slight increase as consumers look to take care of themselves whilst they have the time at home. On the other side of the coin, sales of shampoo and conditioner have dropped as a result of the lockdown, which has seen the frequency of hair washing decreasing. The same trend is following for fragrance. Colour cosmetics has also seen this change in buyer behaviour, with the exception of the younger demographic who, due to their level of social networking, are still driving sales. Travel retail has been the hardest hit whilst restrictions around travel remain in place. However, the sectors taking a hit right now are predicted to return to normal once we leave lockdown and return to our daily routine(KWP).

What are they doing now?

Right now, the beauty industry has found itself in a place where it can help. Many of the amazing clients I’ve spoken with are working around the clock to turn manufacturing lines around to provide much needed products for the NHS and key workers. LVMH, L’Oreal and many other brands are producing hand sanitiser, CURL Haircare are making face masks, others are donating skincare products to the vulnerable and those who can’t afford them, as well asdonating money to critical charities. These are all efforts we love to see from our favourite brands and which consumers respond well to.

Businesses are also supporting one another.  Fabrizio Freda, CEO & Director of Estee Lauder Companies has spoken openly about how they are helping and supporting their retail partners during the pandemic through a quick change in strategies. Conversion is now key - whilst traffic is low, focus must be given to converting the traffic coming through. Leveraging flexibility of resource allocation and leveraging the growth drivers, or portfolios, which consumers are demanding. Brands are getting ready to invest in their industries as soon as the market can again support growth. But, should brands look to return to business as usual? This huge interruption to everyday life has, if nothing else, provided us with the time to pause and reflect. How can businesses come back better and stronger? What changes should leaders be making to their brand proposition and business model?

How can we plan for the future?

As much as we have all now adopted to changes in our daily working habits, which to an extent has become our new norm, our appreciation as consumers for many things in life has changed. Brands need to be connected to their consumers more now than ever before, in order to understand what could be one of the most significant shifts in mindset and purchasing behaviour we may see in our lifetime. Whilst we have seen a growing trend over, not just animal, but planet friendly products, it is anticipated this pandemic will see a surge in the want for what is being coined ‘Healthy Beauty’. Consumers are more aware of their environment and well-being than ever and the demand for important programmes such as sustainability cannot be ignored.

Just before the lockdown was imposed, I was fortunate enough to be part of a leadership dinner with Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen. Mark is also a member of the board of trustees at B Lab, a non-profit organisation that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. To help businesses compete not only to be the best in the world but the best for the world. Mark shared a number of experiences where businesses behaving responsibly and making from small to huge changes across their businesses, had immeasurable benefit to people’s lives. It is becoming more and more evident that as much as ecommerce is now a part of the brand strategy, programmes such as sustainability must also be.

Without a doubt, it is evident that ecommerce and further development of this area will play a significant role in the world’s economic recovery and far beyond this pandemic, but ultimately this is just another channel. Businesses must be clear on what they want to stand for moving forwards and be true to this throughout their whole organisation, from their manufacturing process to their end products.

How have your values and ultimately consumer needs changed as a result of this time in life? Most importantly, does your brand echo those of your consumer?

Claire Stewart is a Consultant in the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles within the Consumer Lifestyle sector.

Share this:
Search filters
You are currently offline. Some pages or content may fail to load.