Prestige beauty sales in the UK down 24% in 2020, reports The NPD Group

COVID-19 has changed consumer buying habits, with many adopting a digital approach to their shopping. On the one hand, sales of prestige beauty products in brick and mortar stores declined 44% in 2020 when stores were forced to close intermittently due to government restrictions, according to The NPD Group. On the other hand, prestige beauty sales online increased 47% in 2020, up 21% points compared to 2019. Actually, the pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already well established, since the prestige beauty market online has reported double digit growth in the UK for several years.

Christmas holidays benefitted to fragrances

Despite a harsh context, fragrance demonstrated its resilience in 2020 and was one of the best performing categories in prestige beauty. In 2020 total prestige fragrance sales declined 17%, seven points less than the overall prestige beauty market. The first lockdown had a negative impact on sales in the fragrance market and 50% of the year’s total losses can be attributed to the period from April to June. When stores reopened, recovery was in sight, and the market showed promising signs, performing positively in November, growing 2%, despite the second lockdown. In 2019, 52% of fragrance sales occurred in the last three months of the year. October to December 2020 accounted for 57% mix of full year sales, confirming that fragrances remain one of the most important Christmas gifts for consumers. The NPD Group made similar observations for prestige fragrance sales in France.

Skincare and selfcare

Skincare came into sharp focus in 2020. It was the most resilient prestige beauty category during the first lockdown as consumers maintained their skincare routine. The skincare category declined 21% in 2020, but sales of anti-acne serums increased by 51% in value in 2020 as mask wearing created new needs among British consumers. Sales of prestige hand soaps grew 38% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Furthermore, following the #selfcare trend, prestige bodycare gained more than 1% of market share due to the popularity of body creams, lotions and spray as consumers turned to spa-at-home routines.

Harsh time for make-up

Make-up, one of the pillars of the UK beauty market, was the most challenged category in 2020. Sales of prestige makeup in the UK declined 40% compared to 2019. Remote-working, reduced social life and the trend for natural makeup led to a decrease in demand. For example, sales of lip make-up declined 50%, due to the government regulations to wear face masks.

The UK’s prestige beauty industry has been hugely challenged in 2020, however brands and retailers remain resilient and the trends we witnessed in previous years have accelerated during the pandemic. This includes the growth of online sales, the importance of a multi-channel retail approach, and the influence of social media on a consumers path to purchase,” said Emma Fishwick, account manager, NPD UK Beauty.

Earlier this month, The NPD Group published similar figures regarding the French prestige beauty market which posted an unprecedented 20% drop. However, brick and mortar stores were less impacted in France (-26%) and online sales (+52%) performed even better that in the UK.