MILAN Smiles and optimism abounded at the Château Monfort hotel, where Cosmetica Italia held its press conference on Thursday.

The president of the Italian association of cosmetics companies, Fabio Rossello, shared the preliminary data on how the industry performed in 2017, tracking the positive momentum the business is facing and forecasting economic trends for the year.

In particular, in 2017, sales reached the 11 billion euro landmark, up 4.4 percent compared to the previous year. A further 5 percent growth is expected for 2018.

Last year, exports were a major force, with sales climbing 9 percent to total 4.7 billion euros, while the Italian market grew 1.3 percent.

Export destinations transitioned from being divided between European countries and extra-EU destinations to non-EU countries accounting for 60 percent of exports, confirming the competitiveness of the Italian offer abroad.

France, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. were stable as top export destinations, but registered contrasting trends. According to data provided by the National Institute for Statistics — ISTAT — in the first 10 months of 2017, exports to France grew by double digits, climbing 27.7 percent, while those to the U.S. were up 4.5 percent. On the other hand, Germany and the U.K. decreased 2 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. A new entry in the top 10 list of export destinations, Poland surpassed Russia with 130 million euros in sales.

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In Italy, sales of beauty products reached 10 billion euros, partially due to the recovery of some distribution channels.

The mass market still represents 40 percent of sales in Italy, reversing the previous year’s negative trend and increasing 1 percent in 2017, for a total value of 4 billion euros.

Other channels performing positively include herbalist shops, pharmacy and professional hair and beauty salons, which grew 0.9 percent, 1.2 percent, 1.9 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Sales in perfumeries were the exception, reporting a 0.5 percent drop.

In addition, strong performances were registered by e-commerce channels, which climbed 25 percent, and direct sales, which were up 7 percent. Nevertheless, such growth represented only marginal values — 300 million euros and 820 million euros, respectively.

“There’s much talk around the theme of digital transformation, but the companies’ adjustment process is not that immediate as it may appear,” said Cosmetica Italia study center’s supervisor Gian Andrea Positano. “This industry needs a gradual change, impacting very little on the company’s routine but, at the meantime, creating additional value.”

In particular, more than 67 percent of the companies interviewed by Cosmetica Italia see online stores positively, consider e-commerce an essential element for the future of their business, a key asset enabling them to beat the competition and an opportunity to boost sales, in general.

The remaining interviewees are still concerned about online eroding sales from brick-and-mortar stores and the risk of confusing clients with a multichannel offer.

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