In honor of #NationalLipstickDay, WWD chatted with the executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. about sales in the age of uncertainty.
Leonard A. Lauder coined the term “lipstick index” in 2001, when lipstick sales spiked despite a widespread recession. As he crunched the numbers, he realized that historically, sales of beauty products increased during tough economic times — as during the Great Depression, for example, when cosmetics sales increased almost 25 percent.
But in the age of the coronavirus, all bets are off.
“We’re dealing with unprecedented times,” said William P. Lauder, today the executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and who was group president of the business in the early Aughts.
“In previous economic recessions, most people’s everyday lives were impacted, but the overall way they interacted with others and led their lives didn’t change fundamentally. We’re now in a situation where we are being advised about staying away, being careful about shopping. It is difficult to say when or what our habits will be when it comes to the new normal and what that new normal will be.”
While Lauder isn’t seeing a spike in the lip categories, other areas of the business are more robust. Skin care — particularly hero products — are performing well, with categories like facial masks surging; in makeup, concealers, shadows and brow products are also trending, he said.
“We could talk about a ‘mascara index’ or ‘nail polish index,’” said Lauder, “but I wouldn’t call it a hard and fast mathematical correlation. It’s more anecdotal.”
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