Now that they’ve had time to crunch the numbers, mass market beauty retailers label the holiday season “a roller coaster ride.” Sales rose and fell each day leading up to the holiday. When the ride was over, sales increases averaged 3 percent to 4 percent — a smidge better than many had projected.
The sales totals mirrored data reported by the National Retail Federation, which said holiday retail sales across the board rose 3 percent to $626.1 billion. The NRF acknowledged that warmer-than-usual weather put a damper on cold-weather merchandise. Luckily for mass beauty merchants, weather didn’t impact sales.
Daily beauty needs — not necessarily gift items — such as lipstick, mascara, makeup brushes and nail polish removers moved well. Those products provided a nice lift to the overall beauty category, retailers said. While Christmas gift sets finished the year up for many, chains said the items that sold best were those exclusive to their company. “When too many retailers had the same offer, it diminished the customer desire,” said one seasoned retailer. That trend is expected to amplify for holiday 2016.
The ongoing lack of shopper interest in celebrity fragrances was offset by an uptick in sales of designer gift sets, retailers said. Among those singled out were CKOne, Obsession, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and Angel. One exception in celebrity was Beyoncé gift sets, retailers said, which posted gains over past seasons. To get customers back into drugstores and discount chains for fragrances, many retailers boosted budgets devoted to advertising in circulars and online. Some chains, though, did note that fragrance gains came with steep discounts they fear could reduce average unit retails. “But overall we are pleased with our sales and sell through,” noted one major chain source.
In cosmetics, retailers zeroed in on trends such as the colors in the Cover Girl Star Wars collection, as well as hot matte lipsticks from Revlon. L’Oréal lip new lip initiative also helped make cash registers ring. Licenses, especially Bonne Bell’s Frozen collection, continue to resonate with consumers — especially as stocking-stuffers. Among the best sellers at Target for the holidays were Elf gift sets, NYX, Eos, Savannah Bee and Bubble and Charm. Buyers said they sensed the return to color cosmetics in general provided a boost to lip, eye and especially nail. That, in turn, nudged up remover sales, which are typically stronger in summer but recorded larger than usual holiday gains. “The winter holiday season makes a significant impact as well as polish enthusiasts get more creative with their nails,” said a spokeswoman for Cutex. The good news there, one buyer said, is the margins in removers.
The mass market reported solid traffic in physical stores, but especially an uptick online. Target.com, for example, reported several record-breaking days. The chain offered a 10 Days of Deals including one day where beauty and personal care items were all 25 percent off.