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A Beautiful Mind

Where do American women go for their beauty products? Allure magazine reveals.

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but beauty dollars are in the hands of the consumer. And grabbing a portion of those dollars is on the minds of retailers.

Helping them figure it out is Allure magazine, owned by WWD parent Condé Nast, which conducted its annual in-depth study detailing what influences American women’s beauty purchasing decisions.

The Allure Catalyst Report polled more than 2,600 women, ages 18 to 64, online, between April 25 and May 11. They logged a total of more than 1,300 hours sharing their thoughts for the survey.

Among its findings, the report reveals that on average, women use 13 beauty products at least once a week, and regularly use seven brands. The average woman spends 40 minutes a day on beauty — nearly double the time she spends commuting to work — and on average, it would cost $199 to replace all of her beauty products.

Where is she likely to do that shopping?

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The survey revealed that mass channels gobble most of her beauty dollars. Price appears to be a key factor, as “the expense of products” ranked first in a list of things consumers liked least when shopping for beauty products, with 55 percent.

When asked where they have shopped for beauty products in the past six months, 64 percent said discounters, while 40 percent said they bought beauty products at drug stores. Department stores captured 21 percent and supermarkets drew 20 percent.

Specialty retailers, like Sephora or Ulta, grabbed 12 percent, as did beauty salons and dollar stores. Door-to-door sales, like Mary Kay or Avon, accounted for 19 percent, while 14 percent said they shopped online.

Among online shoppers, the top five reasons for letting their fingers do the clicking were:

— Getting a product I couldn’t get anywhere else: 28 percent.

— Taking advantage of a special online offer: 24 percent.

— Refilling a product I already use: 21 percent.

— It’s less expensive online: 21 percent.

— To avoid going to a store: 20 percent.

Getting free samples topped the list of what women like most about beauty shopping. When asked to pick three favorites, 30 percent cited freebies and 28 percent said “finding a bargain.” As 27 percent said “the possibility of finding a great product,” 24 percent said “treating or indulging myself.”

As for brand loyalty, 40 percent said another thing they disliked about beauty shopping was the risk of not knowing whether a product will work. Just over half (51 percent) said they would rather stick with a product they know has worked, and 65 percent said they’ve been using many of the same beauty brands for years.

Even if a product is working for them, 28 percent said they prefer to try new beauty products, and 25 percent said it doesn’t take much to get them to switch brands.

Beyond price, the in-store experience makes a difference in consumers’ opinion of beauty shopping. Among other “least enjoyed” factors:

— 39 percent cited pushy salespeople.

— 27 percent said “not finding what I’m looking for”

— 23 percent said not understanding what products are right for them, as well as being overwhelmed by too many options.

Other factors included dealing with crowds (21 percent); unknowledgeable salespeople (18 percent); waiting in line (11 percent), and stores that are hard to navigate (7 percent).

Most women won’t leave the house without four beauty products in their handbags, on average, and they mostly pertain to the lips. Lip balm topped the list, with 45 percent; hand/body moisturizer grabbed 35 percent; lipstick took 31 percent; lip gloss, 29 percent; beauty implements and fragrance/perfume took 16 percent each; mascara garnered 10 percent; 7 percent take foundation, and 6 percent take blush or bronzer as well as eye shadow.

Sounds like they need a good handbag, too.