After more than a year of lockdowns, restrictions on social interaction and massive teleworking, French people seem to be gradually returning to their pre-health crisis consumption habits, particularly when it comes to premium beauty products, according to The NPD Group’s latest report.

Between January and the end of August 2021, the French high-end beauty market recorded a 6% increase, both in value and volume, compared to the same period in 2020. With total sales amounting to EUR 1.327 bn in value, this market is clearly showing positive signs of recovery. However, the market research institute points out that 2020 losses have not been compensated. Indeed, in the first eight months of 2021, sales of selective beauty products remain 20% below their 2019 level.

Perfumes, skincare and eye make-up

In practice, sales of selective products are driven by perfumes with sales up 10% in value in the first eight months of the year. Compared to 2020, sales of gift sets, eaux de parfum, extracts and home fragrances achieved double-digit growth.

To a lesser extent, sales of skincare products are also on the rise, with a 2% increase in value and 16% in unit sales in the first eight months of 2021. This is due in particular to a 5 euro drop in the average price of skincare products, with consumers preferring less expensive products. It is worth noting the good performance of body care in this category, which recorded double-digit growth between January and the end of August 2021, compared to 2020.

It should also be noted that the recovery does not yet concern selective make-up, which remains on a downward trend (-2%) between January and the end of August 2021. Some segments are however emerging. This is the case for instance with eye make-up which, according to The NPD Group, recorded "double-digit growth" during the period. Tinted creams and concealers are also on the rise again, reflecting the renewed interest of French consumers.

E-commerce continues to grow

The return of people to the office was also accompanied by their return to bricks and mortar shops, with sales up 1% in value compared to the same time a year ago, despite a further period of confinement in the spring and the continuation of many restrictions. Nevertheless, consumer confidence has been restored since the reopening of shops last May. From 17 May to 29 August, sales increased by 13% in value compared to the same period in 2020, and by 2% compared to the same period in 2019.

Yet, over the whole period, growth in value sales is mainly due to online sales, which grew by 34% in the first eight months of the year compared to 2020. Online sales now represent 19% of total sales of high-end beauty products in value, up from 8% in 2019, before the pandemic, and 15% in 2020.

"The year 2021 was marked by restrictions in shops and a third lockdown, which impacted the beauty market in perfumeries and department stores. Consumers demonstrated flexibility, especially when restrictions were lifted. While returning to the shops, they continued, however, to buy online," says Mathilde Lion, Beauty Expert Europe at The NPD Group.