Economy's a beast for prestige beauty industry, research concludes

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Despite a few beacons of light, the economic downturn is taking its toll on the U.S. prestige beauty industry, as sales dropped 3% to $8.38 billion during 2008 compared with the year-ago period, according to market research company The NPD Group.

The decline in the U.S. prestige beauty industry was driven largely by fragrance, which experienced a 6% decline to $2.68 billion. Fragrances for both genders experienced a decline, with women’s fragrance down 5% and men’s fragrance down 8%, according to NPD.

However, sales of higher priced gift sets, those priced between $60 and $100, were a bright spot for the fragrance category. This category represented 65% of gift set sales in 2008, compared with 40% in 2005, and experienced a growth in both dollars (+12%) and units (+11%).

Thanks to new brands like Viva La Juicy, Estee Lauder Sensuous, Ed Hardy and the Harajuku Lovers collection, women’s new fragrances posted a 9% boost in 2008, according to NPD.

Fragrance sales have struggled for the past few years, but what is a bit of a surprise, according to NPD, is the decline in the makeup category. Annual 2008 marked the first time makeup products posted a decline, dropping 3% in dollars and 6% in units. All segments in the makeup category (eyes, lips and face) experienced a decline in 2008.

Natural makeup did experience a boost in the past year, while premium-priced products in the face segment also showed strength in 2008, even as other makeup segments struggled with their premium-price offerings, the research stated.

Prestige skin care managed to stay afloat, capturing 29% dollar share, an additional share point over 2007, of total prestige beauty sales. Total prestige products, which include face, body, sun and hair products, generated $2.4 billion in 2008.

In addition, anti-aging and specialization products (e.g. allergy relief, redness and whitening/brightening) were up double digits and premium priced facial products (priced $70 and up) increased 4% from 2007.

Natural/spa/wellness skin care brands showed the strongest dollar growth of the distinctive brand types, up 6% versus the year-ago period to $304 million.

“The economic realities of 2008 have created fundamental shifts in the behavior of our consumers and the way they approach beauty. In 2009, we recognize that while consumption will not stop for prestige beauty, it has changed. It has become and will become more careful, more selective and more meaningful,” stated Karen Grant, senior global industry analyst and VP beauty for NPD. “Across all three prestige beauty categories, there were areas that experienced growth despite overall soft performance. We saw growth in premium price, natural and new innovations among trusted brands as well as alternative brand types.”

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