Nail polish has added a shiny gloss to beauty sales in recent years, and the category continues to grow at a robust double-digit clip.
But its meteoric rate of growth has begun to slow somewhat, showing a slight fissure in the category’s lacquer, despite a horde of new entrants into the business across both mass and prestige. Sales of prestige nail products gained 19 percent in the year-to-date period ended in May, compared with an increase of 42 percent growth for full-year 2012 and 67 percent the prior year, according to The NPD Group Inc. In the mass market, nail polish sales rose 19 percent for the 52-week period ended May 19, compared with gains of 24.8 percent for full-year 2012 and 35.7 percent in 2011, according to SymphonyIRI Group.
“Growth overall is strong, and it continues to be strong. The momentum is still there,” said Karen Grant, vice president and global industry analyst at NPD, adding that an influx of new brands and a flurry of new finishes and textures continue to spark consumer interest. And companies continue to create new technology to expand the category. For instance, at the Cosmoprof North America trade show, held earlier this month in Las Vegas, a company called Tat’z Nail’z created a stir with its imaging machine that allows users to select from a host of designs or upload their own digital image (say, the pattern of their dress or their boyfriend’s photo), which is then printed on each nail.
The whirl of activity has created a billion-dollar industry in the U.S.: Retail sales reached $1 billion in 2012, up 26 percent from $793.8 million in the prior year, according to Euromonitor International.
But for any category, maintaining double-digit growth is a tall order.
“Not everything can grow at 40 percent a year, but if it grows at 5 or 6 percent, that’s pretty good. Growth invites a lot of people to jump in, but when you invite a lot of people, not everyone qualifies,” David Greenberg, president of Maybelline New York, Garnier and Essie at L’Oréal, told attendees at a recent panel hosted by Cosmetic Executive Women.
Industry consultant Allan Mottus forecasted that gains may settle in the mid-single-digit range, but added, “It’s a good spot to be in.” Mottus noted texting — which puts hands front and center — has served as a boon to nail grooming. “Nail is a heavy-use product business — frequent application means you can sell a lot [of bottles],” said Mottus.
The category’s jaw-dropping growth has prompted a slew of acquisitions in recent years: Essie is now owned by L’Oréal, OPI by Coty Inc., and Sinful Colors and Pure Ice are part of Revlon’s portfolio. As large beauty companies have increased their presence in nail care, they’ve also increased their exposure to swiftly changing trends and potential sales fluctuations. For instance, Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan estimates that OPI currently accounts for 6 percent of Coty’s sales and 20 percent of the firm’s color cosmetics segment.
With increased exposure to the nail category, retailers and beauty firms are determined to encourage the category’s growth spurt. Retailers — including CVS Pharmacy with Nail HQ and Sephora with its Nail Studio — have carved out generous display space for nail polish. The Sephora in New York’s Times Square expanded its Nail Studio area with seven “nail play” stations, outfitting each with an iPad and a host of nail polishes and tools to allow shoppers to try the latest nail effects, such as ombré, neons and brights, studded leather, and chalkboard. The Ciaté brand has created a microsite for its Chalkboard Manicure Kit that allows visitors to share their designs in the “Doodle Gallery.” The prestige channel, in particular, is awash with niche nail polish ranges, including Ciaté, JinSoon, Deborah Lippmann, Julep, Nails Inc. and Butter London. RELATED STORY: Kiss Products' Naughty and Nice Approach >>
Walgreens and its regional chain Duane Reade have cleared additional space and created dedicated displays for a rainbow of nail polish shades.
“The nail polish category continues to flourish, and we know it’s very popular among our customers,” said Shannon Curtin, divisional vice president and general merchandising manager for beauty, personal care and seasonal at Walgreens. “There are new trends developing daily, and we have expanded our assortment to reflect a variety of brands and nail accessories.”
A number of stores, including Wal-Mart, have placed assortments in secondary locations as well to entice more impulse sales.
“Secondary location plays a big role in fueling sales growth,” said Annette DeVita, vice president of marketing for the Coty Inc.-owned Sally Hansen brand. “High-impact displays, promotions and dedicated large self-service nail color units bring focus, excitement and attention to the category. Digital and social media as conduits for education, incentive and engagement with customers is also an area in which we have partnered with retailers to highlight the category.” DeVita said consumers continue to experiment with color — blue and green hues have been strong performers this year — and dabble in nail art and special effects. Sally Hansen Fuzzy Coat, which imparts a woven-fiber effect, is a strong seller, she said.
Like Sally Hansen, a host of nail polish brands continue to launch new colors and finishes to excite consumers. Their interest in decals, art effects and 3-D textures have inspired a host of dedicated nail blogs, Instagram photos — and of course more products. Upcoming launches for fall include OPI’s Designer Series Raw Granite collection comprised of two matte shades with minerallike effects, namely DS Pewter (deep silver) and DS Lapis (sapphire blue). Coming to salons this October is Essie Gel, the brand’s first LED Gel System. Essie Gel will be available in 36 shades, and the manicure is said to last for 14 days.
But some wonder if the increasingly bold trends in nail may soon prompt consumer preference to swing the other direction toward cleaner, more traditional looks.
“I feel a little bit tired for all the gimmicks,” said Jin Soon Choi, a highly sought after editorial manicurist who oversees three eponymous nail spas in New York and a nail polish collection that was launched in late 2012. Choi forecasted that a simple nail color — with a slight twist — will be favored for fall. Choi is fond of a matte blue nail with a smooth finish and a subtle hint of shimmer. The shade Blue Iris (a deep electric blue) is a best seller in the JinSoon Nail collection, which is sold at Sephora, Henri Bendel, Space NK and Nordstrom. While interest in over-the-top textures may fade, clean nail art has staying power, said Choi, referencing the “Skinny V” in gold on olive green nails that she created for Prabal Gurung’s show during fashion week in February.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast