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Published
Feb 2, 2021
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UK prestige beauty sales declined in 2020, lipstick suffered the most

Published
Feb 2, 2021

Sales of prestige beauty products were hurt by the effects of the pandemic last year as restrictions on social and work life meant that consumers didn't always need to buy new products and also couldn't get into shops to purchase them anyway.


Photo: Ali Pazani/Pexels



That's according to figures from NPD Group, which said that prestige beauty sales declines 24% last year with physical shops seeing their sales falling 44% overall. 

And while online stepped in to fill part of the gap, overall the market declined to a value of £2 billion. Online had been growing at double-digit rates in the UK for several years, but this was accelerated last year with a 47% increase, meaning that 44% of all prestige beauty sales in 2020 were e-sales.

What's interesting is what consumers actually bought and it may seem surprising, given the lack of opportunity for them to go out, that fragrance was a resilient category and one of the best performers. Not that it managed to grow, but with a decline of ‘only’ 17%, the fall was less than seen elsewhere in the prestige beauty market.

It saw a big fall during the first lockdown when half of the year’s total losses happened. But when shops reopened from June, consumers had plenty of interest in fragrance and during November, the category even managed to grow 2%, despite the second lockdown in England. In 2019, just over half of fragrance sales happened in the last three months of the year and this increased in 2020 to reach 57%, further proof that this remains a key gifting category.

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

It’s no surprise that make-up was the most challenged category last year and declined 40%. And sales of lip products fell even more (by 50%) as the need to wear a mask outdoors rendered lipstick redundant.

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