Home / Opinion / Views /  The urge to feel good pushes cosmetics sales in Covid times

When Federico Marchetti, chairman and chief executive officer, Yoox Net-a-Porter Group (YNAP), spoke at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit earlier this month, he pointed to the increase in sales of beauty and make up brands on his platform.

Marchetti—a pioneer in online retailing, whose firm was later acquired by Swiss luxury group Richemont —said that beauty, as a category, is flying on Net-a-Porter. The high-fashion site sells brands such as Marc Jacobs and Charlotte Tilbury.

“Probably during these covid times, in the sense...people they want to look good also on Zoom. Also, male beauty and skincare is one of our hottest and fastest growing categories," he said.

In India, the trend is similar. Especially, if you believe Darpan Sanghvi, founder of direct-to-consumer cosmetics brand MyGlamm, which saw a 30% increase in sales this festival season over last year. In the initial days of the lockdown —April, May and June—the company saw zero revenue. However, gradually skincare products started seeing a revival. As India’s festival season kicked in, the make-up category saw an uptick in demand, he said.

That Sanghvi has faith in the resilient Indian consumer, who he claims is looking to lift their spirits through small purchases, is evident from the sprawling physical MyGlamm store he has recently opened in Mumbai.

Not just that. It was during the pandemic that MyGlamm also acquired popular women’s content platform POPxo, which boasts of 50 million monthly average users and is known for its beauty, fashion and lifestyle content. Cross-promotions on POPxo have boosted MyGlamm sales, he said.

Pre-covid, the company had a turnover of roughly 140 crore. With the acquisition of POPxo, it is expected to clock 200 crore.

Several other online beauty brands have also seen an improvement in sales in the last four months after a complete washout initially. According to a Mint report, online beauty store saw a three-fold increase in overall sales volume during its Diwali sale compared to September. About 70% of these orders came from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Mamaearth, too, admitted to higher sales contribution from tier 3 and tier 4 markets.

Another homegrown startup, Kiro, spoke of customers picking up highlighters and eye shadow sticks. Lipsticks, concealers, foundation, and blush also saw traction though most firms reported a surge in demand for skincare products.

“The comeback of the beauty category is not surprising given that ultimately it is cost-effective gratification," said Sanghvi.

Independent consumer behaviour expert and psychologist Sraboni Bhaduri agreed. There is a need to see colour and cheer during crises such as wars and economic depression.

“In view of the prolonged pandemic, there’s a need to feel good. Lipstick or nail polish is small-ticket happiness. It makes you feel that life is possible in such depressing times," she said.

Covid-19 has also spawned a mental health pandemic and there is a need to brighten up one’s surroundings. Besides, there’s a functional aspect to the purchase of personal care products as consumers are still wary of availing salon services. Consequently, the money is redirected to products that go into skincare and make one look good.

A recent report by market research firm Nielsen pointed to increased sales of personal care products online. It pointed out that the penetration of online shoppers who bought fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) during the festival sales between 15 October and 13 November stood at 20%, compared with 13.5% in the same period last year.

Typically, online sales are led by electronics and fashion. However, this year, in terms of number of units sold, the FMCG category was at 35% of all purchases made online compared to 30% in 2019, led by an increase in demand for personal care products, the Nielsen report said.

The researcher studied shopping bills of 160,000 internet users in urban India to conclude that the personal care category contributed to 54.4% in value of overall FMCG sold during the sale period. This marked a change from the early days of the pandemic when people bought essential goods and staples online.

“What you need to see now is what colour palettes are being picked up. Most likely, you will find that more flamboyant and exuberant colours are in demand. It’s really like buying hope off the shelf," said Sraboni Bhaduri.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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