The "Ripartiamo in Bellezza" kits by L'Oréal Luxe Italia.

MILAN — L’Oréal Luxe Italia is launching a project to support the country’s perfumery channel, whose performance was significantly hit by COVID-19 restrictions.

The local division of the beauty powerhouse will promote the campaign “Ripartiamo in Bellezza” — which in English translates as “Let’s restart in style” — aimed at encouraging consumers to return to buying beauty products in perfumeries.

As part of the initiative, starting from July 5 throughout the month, customers visiting the stores involved in the project will be gifted a free beauty consultancy and a kit comprising travel sizes of products by L’Oréal Luxe brands. These include Armani Beauty, Prada, Valentino Beauty, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, Ralph Lauren, Viktor & Rolf, Kiehl’s, Urban Decay and Biotherm, among others.

In addition to this initiative, which will involve all shoppers even without a purchase, consumers spending at least 89 euros on L’Oréal Luxe products will be gifted a shopping bag developed in collaboration with Quid, an Italian ethical and sustainable fashion label.

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Founded in Verona in 2013, Quid manufactures limited-edition collections of clothes and accessories that use high-quality, deadstock fabrics recovered from Italian fashion and textile companies. The brand employs 150 people — 90 percent of whom are women — with vulnerable backgrounds, having suffered from violence or severe illness.

In presenting the initiative remotely on Monday, L’Oréal Luxe Italia general manager Luca Guillot Boschetti underscored the impact the pandemic had on women’s lives and jobs and said the project’s goal is to support both those working in the perfumery channel and all female beauty consumers in general in taking care of themselves.

“Beauty and cosmetics are linked to personal well-being and self-confidence,” he said. “It was important for us to gift women an exclusive moment, in a space filled with attention and professional suggestions, helping perfumeries and all people working in this channel to return to normality.”

Michelangelo Liuni, president of Fenapro — the Italian federation of perfumeries — praised the project, underscoring how a campaign dedicated to the channel was missing for 30 years in the country. “I hope that this kind of activation will be replicated by L’Oréal in the near future, therefore becoming a constant project, and that the example by such a market leader will be followed by other players in the industry, too,” he said.

In particular, Liuni highlighted how personal relationships, consultancy and storytelling are at the core of this channel, as he defined perfumeries as “not providers of products but of service.”

“It’s true that e-commerce had a remarkable acceleration for various reasons the past year, but that world doesn’t represent ours, it’s not the core of our business. We do things differently: Our perfumeries are conceived as salons where you don’t necessarily sell but talk with people and serve them. To safeguard this world doesn’t mean merely to protect the revenues of a company but a way of doing business that is rooted in the Italian tradition.”

Guillot Boschetti stressed that there’s not a contrast between perfumeries and online stores and there’s still room for brick-and-mortar retailers in the future, since customers don’t want just e-commerce platforms for purchases but also environments “offering a different kind of experience, with competent professionals and great empathy.”

Yet, while online sales of beauty products in Italy rose 42 percent last year, sales generated in perfumeries decreased 26 percent to 1.5 billion euros, causing losses of more than 500 million euros compared to 2019.

In addition to store closures, the performance of perfumeries was also impacted by the fact that fragrances used to account for over 41 percent of sales in the channel, and, in general, the category underperformed last year.

Overall, in 2020 total sales of Italian cosmetics companies were down 12.9 percent to 10.5 billion euros compared to the previous year. According to Cosmetica Italia projections, total sales are expected to increase 6.1 percent by the end of 2021.

In particular, forecasts for the perfumery channel still depend on the progress of the vaccination campaign in the country and the performance of stores during key moments, such as in the lead-up to the Christmas holidays. In the most optimistic scenario, this year sales generated in perfumeries are expected to grow 11.5 percent, while in the pessimistic one the increase will be only 1.1 percent.

According to a survey by Lattanzio KIBS commissioned by Cosmetica Italia, consumers are still keen on shopping in physical stores. Out of 2,000 consumers interviewed for the study, 55 percent said they want to return to trying products in person and 34 percent to visiting physical stores.

Another study by Mintel confirmed that for 71 percents of local consumers, physical stores remain the preferred channel and for 40 percent of Italians the suggestions received by beauty experts in-store remain the most reliable ones when purchasing a cosmetic product.

As for younger generations, influencers still play a role in guiding their beauty shopping.

For this reason, L’Oréal Luxe Italia tapped local beauty influencer Clio MakeUp and singer Noemi as ambassadors to promote the initiative on social media. A campaign in print magazines and a 20-second TV spot will also be part of the company’s investment in promoting the initiative starting from July 12.