Lipstick effect? These days hairstyling products are the barometer says THG
The much-discussed lipstick effect may have kicked in as consumers buy relatively affordable luxury beauty treats when times are tough, but this time lipstick itself isn’t the key product.
Hairstyling items have become “the UK’s affordable recession treat”, according to beauty retail giant THG, which owns the Lookfantastic beauty webstore.
It said online searches for hair rollers, hair straighteners and hair oils on Lookfantastic.com have increased, with searches for lipsticks actually falling. Order volumes for hair styling products and electrical hair tools rose by 70% and 17%, respectively, last year. That came as the three months to October saw the UK economy shrink by 0.3%, in the first signs of a recession in the country.
By analysing Office for National Statistics figures, it added that a similar effect was seen during the financial crash of 2008/09 with spending on haircare and personal grooming increasing as other sectors fell back.
Citing autumn 2022 data, it said searches on its site for hair rollers, hair straighteners and hair oils increased by 103%, 47% and 60% year-on-year, respectively. By comparison searches for lipstick, lip balm and lip gloss all dropped with lipstick itself seeing the biggest dip.
The company said that “the uplift in demand for haircare and hairstyling products is seeing it replace lipstick as the barometer of affordable luxury buying habits”.
Since the last recession, the value of the UK’s premium beauty & personal care market has increased from £60 billion to over £100 billion according to Euromonitor International. And internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales have increased from just 3.4% in 2007 to 25% today, according to figures from the ONS. So Lookfantastic’s own sales data seem like a reliable reflection of the overall beauty market.
Regardless of exactly which beauty products people are buying, it’s clear that beauty has a clear role in providing affordable treats during hard times. THG’s recent trading update showed its beauty division enjoying 6.1% growth compared to the prior year and 58% growth on a two-year basis.
Lucy Gorman, CEO of THG Beauty said: “Across the beauty category, we are seeing consumers turning to ‘affordable luxury’ products from established brands for their essential beauty needs, as economic challenges play out.
“Similarly, the ‘Skinification' of haircare trend is continuing as consumers prioritise skin, hair & scalp health as part of holistic wellness regimes. We’re seeing this across THG’s own portfolio of prestige brands and in the thousands of premium brands that retail directly online through the likes of Lookfantastic and Cult Beauty. While the recession will undoubtedly tighten spending, it’s clear that UK consumers’ desire to look and feel good has not waned – and if the last recession is anything to go by the beauty, haircare and personal grooming sectors may prove to be some of the biggest recession busters.”
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