MEXICO CITY — Brazil’s beauty market, the world’s third largest, grew 11 percent to 102 billion reals ($33.4 billion at current exchange) in 2014 as Brazilians continued to buy cosmetics with gusto, despite anemic economic growth in the overall economy, according to the industry lobbying group Abihpec.
“This very strong growth is not surprising, despite the macro landscape we are going through,” said BTG Pactual analyst Thiago Andrade. “Gross domestic product is struggling, but that hasn’t really affected people on a day-to-day basis. Inflation is higher, but unemployment has not yet started.”
A strong Brazilian beauty culture is also helping. “It’s a cultural trait,” Andrade added. “People really dedicate their wallet share to beauty.”
In a down economy, for example, “women may go to the hair salon every two weeks instead of once a week and could trade down on product lines.”
Despite problems suffered by some major beauty players, analysts said industry margins also remain strong, with direct sellers and multiformat retailers, such as drugstores, enjoying gross margins of more than 65 percent of sales.
Regarding the crisis in the real — which has plunged to a 10-year low amid the economic woes in Latin America’s top economy — Andrade said companies import product six to 12 months in advance so the current slump is not affecting them.
“Right now, cash flows are hedged for the most important players,” he said. “The real weakness may be something to keep an eye for in the future.”
As some consumers begin trading down, the mass market segment (particularly basic toiletries) is set to gain strongly this year when analysts forecast it could grow 7 to 8 percent.
Andrade noted direct sellers including Natura and Avon will continue to struggle amid local and international competition.
Andrade said Natura “is doing very badly,” with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margins down 500 basis points in the past three years, hurt by aggressive marketing spending to keep up with expansionist drugstores and specialist brands such as Hypermarcas or L’Occitane.
Meanwhile, Abihpec’s president, João Carlos Basilio, said heavy spending on marketing and advertising helped buoy last year’s sales. Such expenditures now equal roughly 30 percent of industry revenues.
The men’s, children’s and hair-care circuits posted strong gains while sun and hair-care products also saw brisk sales. According to Basilio, the children’s segment grew 14 percent to 4.5 billion reals in the past five years, with hair sales accounting for 24 percent of the global total.
The men’s segment also saw growth double to 11 billion reals since 2010, Basilio added.
Brazil’s beauty industry ranks third behind the U.S. and China. It accounts for 1.8 percent of gross domestic product and 53 percent of the Latin American market, according to Abihpec.