While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to disproportionately impact makeup usage, with net sales declining across nearly all its brands, the company is preparing to welcome a make-up ‘renaissance’.
“Looking ahead, we are preparing a renaissance in make-up, and we anticipate that momentum will gradually build around the world, driven by local reopening and social and professional occasions,” said Fabrizio Freda, president, CEO and director of The Estée Lauder Companies.
“We are strategically well-positioned to grow our sales and capture prestige beauty share make-up recovery with our hero products, robust innovation pipeline, analytics engine, driving aspirational intelligence, and enticing in-store and online activation centred on the omni-channel consumer.”
The company saw net sales grow in every region, led by Asia Pacific, which reported an increase of 35% on a reported basis.
Within the region, China was unsurprisingly the standout, with brick-and-mortar, e-commerce and travel retail thriving amidst the global pandemic.
“Mainland China was exceptional, delivering sequentially accelerating double-digit sales growth, with skin care and fragrance performing ahead of the prior quarter; and make-up returning to growth, up double-digits,” said Freda.
He noted that it was important to highlight and observe the recovery of make-up in China.
“China is ahead of other regions in the control of COVID, and so people are going back with more confidence shopping also in brick-and-mortar… and it obviously is encouraging for what the recovery will represent also in the West as the brick-and-mortar sales go back into the new normal.”
From the resurgence of make-up in China, the company has noted that the recovery of the category helps to drive the recovery of brick-and-mortar.
“The recovery on make-up… benefits particularly the recovery of brick-and-mortar and omnichannel shopping because people like to interact with the products and like the experience of shopping together. And so, this is really one driver, in China, we see these getting stronger and as the recovery unleashes,” said Freda.
The recovery of make-up sales has been mirrored in Australia and Israel as well, where lives are ‘gradually’ normalising, said Freda.
“I'm speaking about China… but also Australia and Israel are others place where we see signs of what happens during the recovery – and the signs are consistent, by the way.”
A fine balance
In terms of categories, consumers that start to pick up make-up again are going back-to-basics and building their ‘core’ routine up.
“First of all, people go back to their core make-up because they have not used it for some time, it may not be fresh anymore in some cases, so there is a lot of back to foundation, to lipstick, to mascaras that needs to be purchased back,” said Freda.
On the other hand, he added that there was a ‘huge interest in newness’.
“From an emotional standpoint, people don't want to go back to the past. They want a new normal. They want to forget actually this very difficult year when they are in a recovery mood and go back to a new future. So, they look for newness, for novelty.”
As such, the company is preparing to offer a balance of ‘core’ product and new products.
“We are ready to bring back our core and allow the consumer to reload what is their core habits, their core products, and at the same time an outstanding mix of new product, innovation... A fresh way to use make-up, new looks, and most importantly, looks which are consistent with the renaissance of the usage occasions.”
Freda elaborated that make-up will also be driven by ‘usage occasions’, such as a return to socialising or the workplace.
“To be clear, makeup is not only about shopping, emotional shopping; it's about having the occasions in your social life, your professional life, to use makeup. And so, we are studying how those occasions come back and which kind of makeup core and newness is of interest for each occasion – and the occasions are different by region.”
The company is leveraging on data and analytics to further refine the type of products it will push out.
“With this level of analytics, we are preparing what we call the renaissance which is a comeback that is very specific and our ability today to manage this with precisions and avoid excessive push or avoiding wrong sub-categories focus. In other words, ensuring a good return of our investments during the recovery.
“Our ability to do that has dramatically increased, thanks to analytics which are not only giving us more data to understand what's happening but is giving us more data to anticipate what is going to happen. And that's what we are working on.”