While beauty stores reopened their doors on Wednesday, May 19 in France, it is clear that the pandemic has forced consumers - and therefore brands - to transform their habits.

The big digital shift

Beauty’s digital pure plays are undoubtedly the big winners of this particular period. Their sales jumped 43% between February 2020 and February 2021 in France, in the midst of a pandemic, according to the latest report from The NPD Group [1]. A year earlier, during the 12-month period leading up to February 2020, their sales had increased by 10% "only".

These e-retailers have taken full advantage of the prolonged closure of brick-and-mortar stores and of the shift in shopping habits of consumers forced to go online to find some of their beauty routine essentials. This is reinforced by the fact that brands and retailers have invested heavily in new virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies now allowing products to be tested at home.

Beauty subscription services and beauty boxes were also quite successful during the period. Their sales increased 10% in the 12-month period leading up to the end of February 2021, compared to the same period the previous year, according to The NPD Group. The average individual basket amounted to 22.11 euros. Blissim has maintained its leadership position in France, while players like Nuoo and Big Moustache have grown rapidly.

Homemade is gaining ground

In addition, many emerging trends have experienced a strong expansion during the pandemic. Consumers have turned increasingly to natural, organic and more responsible products. The phenomenon was accentuated by the adoption of "self-care" and at home spa routines and by the desire to buy more healthy products.

As a result, home-made cosmetics have had a huge following throughout this particular year. The NPD Group reports a 29% increase in sales of Aroma Zone, the French specialist in homemade cosmetics, during the 12-month period ended at the end of February 2021, with an average basket set at more than 35 euros. This is the second consecutive year of double-digit growth for Aroma Zone, which recorded a 28% increase in sales between February 2019 and February 2020, compared to the same period the previous year.

Long periods of store closures have negatively impacted the beauty sector in France during the twelve months between February 2020 and February 2021. However, the success of digital players is an excellent signal, according to Mathilde Lion, Beauty Expert Europe at The NPD Group. “These digital companies are breathing new life into the industry and becoming prescribers across the entire sector,” she explained.