Americans spend billions to look good in lockdown

Americans under lockdown have spent billions of dollars on DIY beauty products as the closure of hairdressers and nail salons spurs amateur cosmetology.

Clippers, hair dyes and nail polish are among a wide range of related items whose sales surged both online and in those stores that have remained open in the 12 weeks since the start of March, according to figures from data provider Nielsen.

Overall US health and beauty sales in the period rose by $3.74bn, or 13 per cent, from a year ago to $32.2bn. Ecommerce led the increase, up 31 per cent to $9.28bn, encouraged by social media influencers who have been providing self-care tips.

While sales of some products in the segment, such as hand sanitiser, rose because of hygiene concerns and other trends, Nielsen said self-care in cosmetics was a big driver of the category-wide strength.

Haircare merchandise has been in particular demand, in part because highlights and other treatments normally applied by professionals have needed to be carried out at home during the pandemic. Colouring products sold online more than doubled from $50m in the same period in 2019 to $128m, while hair styling items rose 20 per cent to $145m.

Sales in physical stores of men’s hair clippers jumped 53 per cent to $59m. Executives said men who were resisting amateur cuts were also experimenting with in-hair products to stay presentable.

“A lot of guys are taking more interest in styling and trimming themselves,” said Kimmy Kwok, chief operating officer at BluMaan, a Vancouver-based hair products company. “They also have just had more time on their hands.”

Nail polish sales online also more than doubled, from $14m to $35m. In stores, sales of both artificial nails and nail polish remover rose about 50 per cent, to $109m and $34m respectively.

While lockdown restrictions have encouraged sales of many types of beauty items, others have declined. The rise of face masks has made lipstick and related items less necessary, and sales of these products in stores dropped 42 per cent to $121m. Sales in stores of eye cosmetics, including shadows and liners, meanwhile declined 26 per cent to $343m.

Even if consumers were no longer visiting bars, clubs and restaurants, they still wanted to look good in lockdown, and not just because of video conference calls, said Andrea Szasz, principal at the consultancy Kearney.

“We are in a time of high stress. People are locked inside their apartments, they might be at home with three screaming kids. Women, in particular, are really trying to take time for self-care.”

In store overall sales of health and beauty products rose 7 per cent to $22.9bn. Despite the closure of non-essential retailers, consumers were able to pick up the items from stores such as Walmart and Target.

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