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WWD Beauty Forum: Linda Wells Looks for a Silver Lining

Despite the recession and an inevitable shift in the spending habits of beauty consumers, Allure editor in chief Linda Wells sees a silver lining.

Linda Wells

Despite the recession and an inevitable shift in the spending habits of the beauty consumer, Allure editor in chief Linda Wells sees a silver lining for the industry.

This story first appeared in the May 15, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We’re hungry for innovation. We need products that work,” said Wells, adding that “innovation has always sold, even in difficult times.” Wells cited the success of the Elizabeth Arden cult product, Eight Hour Cream as well as Revlon’s nail enamel, both launched during the Great Depression, as examples of new ideas that spoke to women during low economic points. Wells said today’s woman is craving value and for her, beauty value means performance.

“Products have to work harder, solve problems, show results and be more innovative than ever before,” said Wells. “Earn her trust first, then you will earn her dollars — especially now.” Wells described today’s beauty consumer as more savvy, less fooled by superlatives and seeking true, measurable results from her products.

“As much as women want performance, they also yearn for some intangible ‘more,’” said Wells. “Every part of beauty needs to provide a sense of optimism, pleasure and promise,” said Wells. “It’s so basic, but it’s something we’ve lost.”

Jill Friedson, associate publisher of marketing for Allure, then shared the results of Allure’s most recent Recession Survey, which took place in March among 4,127 Allure readers. The survey will continue on a quarterly basis in order to “measure the consumers’ confidence levels and better understand the changes and the spending habits across multiple beauty subcategories,” said Agnes Chapski, vice president and publisher of Allure, who introduced Friedson to the stage.

The study revealed, despite the recession, more than 80 percent of readers say beauty is an absolute necessity and three-fourths say even now, a great new beauty find is money well-spent. Allure’s March survey also showed 70 percent of readers have spent more in the past three months in the beauty category than in December.

“The consumer is getting extremely creative in her strategies to keep the products and brands she loves in her arsenal,” said Friedson, who named incentives and coupons as “highly important.” One fifth to one third of readers are switching to more mass channels. Friedson discussed brand loyalty and stated 28 percent of consumers are rationing products, making them last longer by using them less frequently.

So, where exactly is that silver lining in this recession? It’s about tracking what consumers are doing and providing them with exactly what they need. To that end, Friedson said “53 percent of readers are no longer getting serviced in spas and salons” and are instead looking to products for that same benefit, which provides a “huge opportunity” for brands. Friedson also said 85 percent of consumers are planning their purchases ahead of time, rather than making impulse buys. “We need to be communicating early, often and at every touch point,” said Friedson.