By  on September 9, 2011

In the past six months alone, WWD Beauty Inc has published wonderfully compelling stories on Brazil’s booming direct-sell business, the evolution of the Indian fragrance market, Sephora’s aggressive expansion into China and Southeast Asia and the global worldviews of some of beauty’s most powerful chief executives. But when we stopped to take stock, we realized that much of the uncertainty roiling the industry is happening in our own backyard: The U.S. The first half of the year has certainly presented a mixed bag: Prestige beauty sales shot up just as the consumer confidence index was heading towards a 30-year low; retail stock prices surged, but the unemployment rate stubbornly hovered at 9 percent. The contradictions aroused our curiosity, and the result is this, an issue entirely devoted to America.

We started by asking questions: Who’s shopping today? Why? What is she looking for in terms of beauty products and experiences? And how did the recession permanently alter her consumption patterns, overall and with beauty specifically. As you’ll see in “The Anxiety Gap,” the results are fascinating. One fact that became abundantly clear is that the affluent are clearly driving sales; the concept of the upper middle class has all but disappeared and the middle class itself remains wary about discretionary spending. “The recession is over, but the behavior people have learned is not,” retail analyst Wendy Liebmann told me during the course of my interviews. Discover what the permanent changes are, and how they will impact your business.

The nail category has not only not been hard hit during the recession, it has positively thrived. Prestige nail sales soared 58 percent in the first half of this year alone. As Rachel Brown reports in “Hand Power,” women have turned to nail as an affordable indulgence, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Gain insight on how the category is expected to evolve, and the hottest products driving growth.

When it comes to influencing what women buy, few have a voice as powerful as the beauty editor. While social media and the rise of bloggers have certainly added to the chorus of credible advisors, a group of forward-looking editors have retrenched and created new ways to dimensionalize the pages of their publications, both online and offline. As you’ll learn in “Messenger Center,” what was once a month-by-month communication with readers has now become minute by minute—and even extended to the retail counter. “ People call it new media and social media, but to me, it’s media,” says Teen Vogue’s beauty director Eva Chen. “It’s different layers and everything has to serve its purpose.” Chen’s statement reflects not only the new democratic approach to the the dissemination of information, it’s a also a perfect summation of how we live and shop in America today. Let me know what you think at jenny_fine@condenast.com.

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