Leonard Lauder coined the counter intuitive phrase “lipstick effect” to describe how sales of lipstick tend to increase when the economy slides into recession.
The idea behind the theory is that, depressed by the recession and unable to spend money on expensive luxuries, women will turn to lipstick as a “pick-me-up”.
However, Mintel claims that this time round the lipstick effect has come unstuck.
Pick-me-up theory falls flat
In a survey of about 3000 consumers in the US, France and the UK, the market researchers found just 3 percent of respondents in each country say they purchased a lipstick to make themselves feel better.
Furthermore, lip color came top of the list of cosmetic products women would be most likely to spend less on or stop using.
“It is a common perception that lipstick sales go up in times of economic adversity, yet this research reveals a very different picture. Hair care and skincare are actually the beauty categories where women are spending the same or more,” said Nica Lewis, head consultant, Mintel Beauty Innovation.
While the survey found the lipstick effect wanting, Mintel said the beauty business as a whole is resilient. Most consumers reported no change in their buying habits and in some categories most respondents said they would spend the same or more.
More than 60 percent of women in each country spent the same or more on their foundations and women in all three countries were most likely to spend the same or more on essential products such as shampoo and cleansers.
American purses tighter than most
However, the survey suggested that cosmetics sales are suffering more in the US where a third of women surveyed said they had switched to a lower priced brand for their skin care, hair care and cosmetics. The figure was closer to a quarter in the UK and France.
Americans were also likely to be more tempted by quantity and were the most likely to buy value-sized or multi-action products.
They were also likely to be less attached to their favorite beauty products than their French friends. Less than one in ten consumers said they had cut back on other things in order to keeping buying their favorite products while 12 percent of French women admitted to giving cosmetics such a high priority.