Instead of trying to trade consumers up this holiday season, mass-market beauty retailers are going for consumers with fewer dollars to spend to satisfy their gift lists.
That’s why consumers’ mailboxes—virtual and physical—are already brimming with 25% off discounts, buy-one-get-one deals and bonus items for loyal consumers. The categories mass merchants once could count on, such as holiday fragrance gifts sets, are performing at a dismal rate, leaving them challenged to find other options. Instead, the great hope is color cosmetics as women appear interested once again in nail, eye and face makeup. Data by Information Resources Inc. shows eye care sales are averaging 3% gains, including a dynamic 11% for brow items; lip color sales are also reaching toward 3% inclines and even nail is now showing recovery. Mass retailers are reacting with in-store specialty brow areas and a return of nail endcaps. Leading the sales renaissance in nails is Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel, with many retailers finding they can’t keep the topcoat in stock.
The major chains didn’t wait to haul out color blockbusters with many set up before Halloween. And even though they don’t hold much stock in fragrances, they are putting out the gift sets in hope Santa might be there. Ulta, for example, is betting on cutting-edge items as holiday gifts such as skin care devices.
Despite the glimmer of hope, mass retailers are preparing for the worst, fearing stiffer competition than ever from specialty, value and online rivals. They hope research from the International Council of Shopping Centers [ICSC] suggesting shoppers will be out in force on Black Friday is an indicator they’ll get their fair share of the haul. According to ICSC, 41% of consumers plan to go to stores on Black Friday and another 18% plan to shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving. Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target, Wal-Mart and CVS are among the chains keeping their lights on for Thanksgiving shopping needs.
Predictions from Fitch Ratings put Holiday spending up about 3% to 4% this November/December versus 2.8% year to date. The good news for discounters, dollar stores and supermarkets is the decline in gasoline prices, suggesting it will be worth the drive for value. The magic price point for most mass beauty items will be $10, retailers said. The goal will be to keep shoppers in their stores instead of venturing to the booming dollar store business, which has added more beauty items.
WSL Strategic Retail CEO, Wendy Liebmann, summed up the gloom hanging over retailers this holiday by saying, “It feels like everyone has thrown in the towel and accepted it’s going to be a brutal season.” She encourages retailers not to accept that forecast and put greater zip into stores, citing dynamic efforts at Sephora and the UK’s Selfridges with its Destination Christmas boutique approach.