With almost unlimited possibilities for self-expression, lipstick is an object of seduction and feminity as well as a skin protection. “Invented” 5000 years ago in Mesopotomia, it has entered the modern era thanks to innovators like Guerlain or most recently Estee Lauder. So far, lipstick has been the most affordable of all cosmetic products, the foremost makeup object for millions of consumers throughout the world and a means of empowerment for most women. Purchasing a Hermès or Dior lipstick has become an “affordable luxury” for many women in emerging countries such as India or China.
Lipstick: a resilient market despite many economic crises
So, will the Covid times be remembered as a major economic disaster for the lipstick market or just a conjunctural bump like many others that have occurred in the past? Let’s check facts to get insights. Many recent quantitative studies show a decrease in lipstick sales by 25% to 30%, sometimes even more. That’s certainly a big hit. But if we take a closer look back at the past economic trends, lipstick has always proved resilient since 2005, even during the financial crises of 2008 and 2015, such as shown in the graph below.
Source: Euromonitor Passeport 2019, Retail Value.
Even more encouraging, in post pandemic China, between May and October 2020, figures show that e-commerce lipstick sales were back on track and even over 15% in value compared to same period in 2019. This means that we may see a rebound in the upcoming month.
Wearing lipstick, an act of resistance
Despite the covid-context, wearing lipstick remains a symbol of freedom, of self-expression and of fashion. Recently, during the latest 2021 fashion shows broadcasted online, models kept on proudly wearing lipstick as an act of resistance, with hues ranging from beige nudes to intense reds.
Victoria Beckham even stated in Harper’s Bazaar: “It’s not the mask that will prevent me from wearing lipstick. For years, I’ve been looking for the perfect nude and nothing will stop me from launching my range of lipsticks, nor from wearing them when I go out in the street”.
In fact, the lipstick market will evolve deeply from 2021 and onwards, despite the crises or fashion trends. It will never be the same anymore for two main reasons: the first one being sustainability issues. Consumers are now perfectly aware of the impact of their consumption on the environment and are expecting brands to engage in this long-term battle. Therefore, the eco design of the packaging definitely inspires the future of lipstick. Brands must become virtuous and systematically implement the 3R’s: Recyclable, use of Recycled material and Re-usable packs.
The second reason why the lipstick market will never be the same is the emergence of “indie brands” such as Urban Decay, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Benefit Cosmetics, Too Faced, Huda Beauty. They are now best-selling brands, some being ranked among TOP10 and have become “must-haves” for many consumers. In fact, their market share is starting to chip away at that of traditional brands. Their success can be explained by smaller and more agile organizations and a time-to-market of just six to nine months, compared to sometimes more than two years for the larger brands… A wave of “Lipstick indies” acquisition and integration into big corporations has begun, starting with Too Faced by Estee Lauder, or more recently Kylie Jenner sold to Coty, and lately Charlotte Tilbury sold to Puig.
Through these different takeovers, traditional groups are striving to reinforce their presence among the younger generations in particular.