UK beauty to decline 10% in 2020: ‘Cosmetics has taken a backseat’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

According to GlobalData, fragrances and coloured cosmetics will see greatest declines with skin care, oral care and personal hygiene 'in a better position' (Getty Images)
According to GlobalData, fragrances and coloured cosmetics will see greatest declines with skin care, oral care and personal hygiene 'in a better position' (Getty Images)

Related tags: GlobalData, British Beauty Council, CTPA, UK beauty, Uk, COVID-19, mask-wearing

The UK cosmetics and toiletries sector will see a €1.8bn (£1.7bn) value decline in 2020, after a tough year largely defined by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. But growth will return in 2021 with the right investments, says GlobalData.

The data analytics firm said consumer survey results published this month showed 43% of UK consumers planned to reduce socialising outside of home which would cause cosmetics and toiletries to lose out in a COVID-19-driven decision between “what is essential and what is dispensable”.

At-home time and masks ‘diminishing the need for cosmetics’

Lia Neophytou, consumer analyst at GlobalData, said: “With fewer out-of-home occasions for consumers to attend, as well as the transition to working at home, cosmetics has taken a backseat. Even when consumers do venture outdoors, the wearing of masks is further diminishing the need for cosmetics.”

Fragrances and coloured cosmetics – categories most suited to out-of-home occasions – would see greatest declines versus skin care and oral hygiene products, according to GlobalData, because the latter were used “irrespective of plans to socialise”.​ Skin care and oral health would also see less decline as there was a heightened awareness of personal cleanliness amid the pandemic.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Neophytou said it was important industry understood the consumer trends born from COVID-19 that would continue to impact beauty moving forward.

COVID-19 born trends – risk-aversion and heightened scrutiny

“Mask usage can be expected to continue even beyond the pandemic period due to heightened consumer risk-aversion,”​ she said. Cosmetics that were compatible with this mask usage, therefore – like those with ‘transfer-proof’ claims or the like – would resonate well with consumers, she said.

“Consumers are also interested in corporate social responsibility and are eager to understand what actions brands have taken, and continue to take, to ensure the safety of employees and wider society. This level of scrutiny can be expected to extend beyond 2020, making it vital for brands to continue to transparently communicate their social initiatives to the public going forward.”

Neophytou said it was critical beauty companies recognised that consumers remained risk-averse and were venturing outside and socialising less, meaning investments in user-friendly online experiences, virtual consultations and direct-to-consumer (D2C) models was more important than ever.

Regaining value across UK beauty – ‘we have to stabilise first’

UK beauty has to bring back the joy, fun and confidence of the category (Getty Images)
UK beauty has to bring back the joy, fun and confidence of the category (Getty Images)

Millie Kendall MBE, CEO of the British Beauty Council, said the ongoing COVID-19 crisis had certainly had a significant impact on industry, particularly large companies reliant on nationwide retail models. Restrictions on demonstrations and testers would also continue to hit cosmetics sales hard, particularly colour cosmetics, Kendall said.

Asked what industry must do to help kickstart growth again, she said: “We have to stabilise first.”

“…We then need to focus on the benefits of beauty, wellbeing and the confidence it can give people. We need to reduce the amount of launches and focus on the sustainability of beauty, both in terms of product and working practices as well as business models and profitability.”

Kendall said the British Beauty Council was primed to run an industry-wide ad campaign to bring “joy, fun and confidence back to the sector”.

Cosmetics is ‘resilient’ and ‘innovative’

Dr Emma Meredith, director-general of the UK Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), said the cosmetics industry was “a resilient one”​ and “an innovative one” ​that had already adapted well to consumer needs during COVID-19 and would continue to do so.

“It will now, more than ever I am sure, be focused on innovating and responding to changing consumer needs and behaviours and to rally as we come out of the health crisis,”​ Meredith said. 

Cosmetics and personal care play 'a vital role' in wellbeing and self-esteem (Getty Images)
Cosmetics and personal care play 'a vital role' in wellbeing and self-esteem (Getty Images)

“Cosmetics and personal care products are not only important for everyday personal care regimes; they also play a vital role in our wellbeing and self-esteem.”

Whilst GlobalData said all categories in the UK cosmetics and toiletries market were expected to return to growth in 2021, industry would not recuperate its pre-covid-19 value.

A different post-COVID beauty world

Economic and financial uncertainty would contribute to this, Neophytou said, with 25% of UK consumers earning because of COVID-19 set to purchase beauty and grooming products “at the lower end of the price range”​ in the future.

“…Brands operating in the skin care and personal hygiene categories are in a better position than most – though a degree of innovation is still required to mitigate the extent of sector decline and speed up recovery. Investing in marketing campaigns and re-positioning products typically used out-of-home to align with the at-home occasion would be wise,”​ she said.

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