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Recovery ahead for the prestige beauty sector in France?

Dolores Damade

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Recovery ahead for the prestige beauty sector in France?

After a turbulent 2020, the prestige beauty market in France continued to suffer from the pandemic in 2021. However, according to the latest figures from NPD Group, the country’s selective beauty sales showed 9% growth last year.

Predictably, the first year of the pandemic resulted in a sharp fall in prestige beauty sales, but the French beauty market seems to be on its way to recovery with growth of 9% in 2021, compared to 2020. Although the 2021 market reported €2.69bn in sales, the first half of the year was heavily impacted by successive confinements and store closures, which drastically slowed down recovery. The market has yet to return to pre-Covid performance levels, with sales down by 12% in 2021 compared to 2019. In the fourth quarter of 2021, however, sales were par with the same period in 2019, culminating with record sales in the run-up to the end of year holidays.

Return of the in-store shopping experience

The primary drivers behind the 9% growth of France’s prestige beauty market are attributed to physical in-store sales and a successful fragrance category. After physical stores reopened following the last lockdown in France, online sales experienced a clear deceleration  with a double-digit decline in the fourth quarter. The importance of the in-store shopping was borne out by the numbers: in-store purchases accounted for 84% of the prestige beauty market in 2021, compared to 16% for online sales. “Once again, consumers have demonstrated that the health of the industry depends primarily on the in-store beauty experience, even if the online shopping habits have been transformed,” explains Mathilde Lion, Beauty Expert Europe at The NPD Group.

Fragrance as growth driver

The fragrance category was the undisputed prestige beauty market leader, generating 82% of gains in 2021, an increase of 11% compared to 2020. Due to restrictions linked to the pandemic, consumers spent more on the home fragrances, as well as high-end scents, such as eaux de parfum and extracts. 

Skincare & make-up bounce back

As a result of the successive lockdowns, at-home wellness routines took off, with body care sales exceeding 2019 results. Overall, prestige skincare grew by 5% in 2021 versus 2020, while unit sales were up 17% as consumers choose less expensive products and more affordable high-end brands. Facial skincare, comprising sprays, mists, oils, exfoliants, and makeup removers, saw double-digit growth over 2020 figures.

Make-up sales were up by 5% in 2021, with eye make-up and nail care coming out in the lead due to mask wearing measures. However, foundation and lipstick sales picked up later in the year, which forecast a good year ahead for the make-up sector. “Make up will be in the spotlight, as we started to see late last year. The focus will be on the fundamentals, such as foundation or lip color,” continues Lion.

Hair care attracts more consumers

The hair care category continues to affirm its presence in prestige beauty, with a 43% increase in sales in 2021, compared to 2020. NPD attributes this growth to an expanding offer of promotional gift sets and consumers’ willingness to invest into more high-end products.

NPD is predicting continued  growth in 2022 - with innovation, the revival of make-up “fundamentals”, revamping the in-store skincare selection and leveraging consumer’s will to indulge - as the key drivers.

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