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Bye lockdown, Hello lipstick!

As the world gets ready to declare COVID–19 as an endemic, people, especially females all across the world are trying to resort back to their normal life routines of using cosmetic and beauty products as they used to do before March 2020.

Beauty products, especially Lipstick were once deemed ‘recession-proof’, but over the last two years – the world saw its fall during the pandemic.  “End of the Lipstick Index” was what the world was looking at early in 2020 as the world was locked down. The beauty industry has been accepted as resilient in the past, but it too was shocked by the COVID-19 crisis.

What is Lipstick Index?

The Lipstick index is a term coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman of the board of Estee Lauder during the early 2000s recession. The term was used to describe increased sales of cosmetics even during hard times of affordable luxury, lipstick, thereby making the industry recession-proof. Lipstick sales were used as an economic indicator as Estee Lauder has found in 2001 that lipstick sales have shown growth even when sales of other consumer goods were falling rapidly during the recession.

In fact, during the coronavirus pandemic, we should have coined the term Mask Index, as it was mandatory for everyone to wear a mask and the mask sales were skyrocketing. Many big players in the industry switched their manufacturing to produce masks, hand sanitizers, and cleaning agents. 

Scenario during the Pandemic:

The cosmetics industry came down on its knees, as the lockdowns forced people to stay indoors with limited socialising, wear masks, work from home, and many other restrictions. Females had stopped buying lipstick, or any other cosmetic product eg. fragrances, skin-care and tanning products, color cosmetics, etc.

The global cosmetics industry that was generating over $500 billion in sales a year and accounted for millions of jobs suddenly looked at almost zero customer traffic and plummeting sales and revenues. Jobs were lost, directly and indirectly, and there have been widespread store closures.

Lipstick sales nosedived across the world, as everyone was forced to wear a mask. You see, what was the point to apply lipsticks as parties, weekend outings, get-togethers, etc. were all out of question. Even if they were on, the mask would have hidden the lipstick anyways.

The only time consumers across the globe were swiping lipsticks was when they wanted to find comfort in the simple pleasures of a “self-care Sunday” or before an online meeting.

As life and parties resume, let’s reapply ‘lipstick’

Now, with the restrictions of the pandemic gone, life is limping back to normal, and we are back at the parties, go for weekend get-togethers, and have discarded our masked appearances. And so are the beauty products with the lipstick category booming in particular as makeup makes a bright and colourful comeback.

“I did not buy any lipstick or any other cosmetic in these last two years because I knew I would be stuck at home only. There was no place where I could go out as my classes were shut. But now, schools have reopened, and I cannot go drop my kids without any makeup on. Classes have resumed and so have the parties,” says Ms. Sheela, a freelance artist of North Delhi. She adds on that, “When I was stuck at home, skincare did become my main focus and I did maintain a ‘minimalist’ look.”

Mrs. Malhotra of Kiran Beauty Parlor says, “During the pandemic, there was no business, no customer. We had to wear a mask at all times, so a few times a week I used to do eye makeup and apply rose tint on my daughter’s cheeks, but there was no point in applying lipstick, as that would ruin the mask and smudge across your face as well.”

“I am glad that I can finally put on lipstick once more”, said Mrs. Malhotra’s daughter as she joined in the conversation.

Scenario in 2022

Major e-commerce websites are showing a significant increase in demand for colour cosmetics, including lipsticks, eye makeup, face makeup, and nail paints early in 2022. When it comes to Lipsticks Nyka, Amazon, Alibaba, and others are witnessing double-digit sales growth year-on-year in March and April. Flipkart reports encouraging upwards movements in sales of other verticals like eyeshadow, foundation, brush applicator, and kajal.

But, according to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Co., the McKinsey Global Consumer Sentiment Survey that took place in early April to understand the likely effects of COVID-19 on the beauty industry over the next three to six months, it was found that even though consumers have returned to work, many still wear masks which will act as a slowing factor for the makeup industry’s recovery. And this can be seen very well in China where despite store reopening and also reports of “revenge spending,” sales have not fully bounced back.

Another notable trend is the rise of do-it-yourself (DIY) beauty care. Many beauty salons have closed, and even in places where they have not, consumers are forgoing services because of concerns about close physical contact. And that accounts for low sales, as beauty salons are the bulk buyers.

Whatever, be the situation, as COVID fades away and life, work, and parties resume, it is time to re-swipe lipstick for almost half of the world.



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