Leila Rochet-Podvin

Leila Rochet-Podvin

The Big Apple continues to play its role as a fashion and beauty trendsetter in North America. Despite the creativity of California, where many of the most innovative cosmetic brands have emerged in recent years, sustainable success and recognition can only be achieved with the recognition of the East coast.

On this subject, Leila Rochet-Podvin, founder of the marketing intelligence firm, Cosmetics Inspiration&Creation, has no doubts. For her, "the East Coast, and New York in particular, remains the sounding box and the amplifier of all the trends that have an influence on the American society". Hence, twice a year, she undertakes a study tour in the shops of the metropolis, from Brooklyn to New Jersey, to unearth the most significant products, the most surprising brands, with the aim to understand what trends are at stake in the market, to explore behavioural changes and decrypt innovations. Last September 2, she offered a small overview on the results of her latest survey.

A fresh start!

After the shock of the 2008-2009 crisis, which stroke the U.S. much harder than it did Europe, the market recovered sharply in 2010 and growth remained strong all along the first half of 2011, with in particular a great comeback of colour, especially in nail polishes and lipsticks, and a stronger rise of the selective circuit compared to that of the mass. Nevertheless, crisis has left its marks, challenging points of reference and habits. "During the crisis, the consumer became frugal, driven by a kind of de-consumption and prioritizing its purchases of products with higher perceived value, whether emotional or rational. At the same time, the emergence of web tools facilitated consumer access to information," explains Rochet-Podvin.

Return to growth was therefore performed in a market environment very different from the one preceding the crisis. On the one hand, consumers have changed and, on the other hand, brands and distributors have reorganized themselves. On the side of distribution, the most noticeable fact is certainly the increasingly obvious blurring of the line between distribution channels.

A chain like Ulta, which offers both prestige and mass market brands in an open serve concept, has emerged stronger from the crisis. Ulta currently has 400 outlets and is aiming the 1,000 mark in the short term. As for drugstores, if upselling was slowed down by crisis, the logical process of opening shops or specialized beauty spaces (Beauty 360 for CVS, or Look Beauty for Duane Reade) continues. Even Walmart, the world leader in mass distribution, is doing his best to attract beauty buyers by renovating its outlets (200 to 800 per year) and by proposing innovative exclusivities such as Hard Candy and GeoGirl.

Niche brands

Department stores are not to be outdone. Macy’s like Bloomingdales created new places dedicated to beauty by providing more open spaces for self service, and by inviting on an exclusive basis a number of niche brands. In its new developed site of 2,360 sqm dedicated to the beauty of its flagship store on 59th Street Bloomingdales offers some fifty niche brands, in partnership with the British chain Space NK.

Concept stores that open in the trendy districts (City Chemist, Shen Beauty and skinnyskinny in Brooklyn) and, more generally, local neighbourhood boutiques that select specific products for their customers, also contribute to the rise of niche brands. The same for beauty corners that invite themselves increasingly in deco outlets, like ABC Carpet & Home.

This rise of niche brands is probably under-evaluated by existing statistical tools, in particular because they do not take account of sales carried out in stores that do not belong to large chains. But it has not escaped professionals, a proof of that is, the very recent establishment, by the American Fragrance Foundation, of an Indie Committee, a committee dedicated to independent perfume brands.

New Horizons

According to Rochet-Podvin two major underlying trends of the American society are transforming the beauty market. On the one hand the rise of multi-ethnicity and on the other hand, the evolution of the self-image among younger generations.

"Since women who are currently considered as belonging to ethnic minorities will constitute in the next thirty years the majority of the population, there is nothing surprising in the fact that this is already reflected by a change in the model of the American beauty type," she explains. In a nutshell, the ideal of the blue-eyed American blonde is out of fashion. Recently, a survey published in the magazine Allure revealed that for 64% of Americans, women of mixed race are the new beauty ideal. According to this same study, Angelina Joly stands out from actresses as the one who is acclaimed for her beauty.

Ethnic diversity is increasingly valued and this is more and more observed in the ads. Today, a brand like Estée Lauder claims for its new Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator, a "proven efficacy on all ethnicities".

"As for the young generations, notes Rochet-Podvin, the evolution of their practices is so spectacular, that people say that they tend to get older younger." This hyper-connected generation has become ultra sensitive to the importance of valuing one’s self-image and more and more brands have a growing interested in them.


In its latest report Inspiration from New York, Cosmetics Inspiration&Creation offers, based on its observations, a detailed analysis of seven themes in connection with the new world of femininity, of colours, of textures and ingredients, which were identified during the last twelve months.

"The main theme of this report is a new ‘ELEVATION’ in beauty and femininity, consumers demands and brands offer have increased, and combine with a ’RE-reinvention’ of a consumer’s aspirations who is looking for more innovation, provided it serve performance. This is what we synthesized in the word ’ReaLevation’, i.e., demand for more ambition, more innovation and dreams, but also for more real and humane stuff. Colour, light, femininity, experience, blend of cultures and vitality are the keywords in this report,” concluded Leila Rochet-Podvin.