The Holiday shopping season started early for the beauty category as shoppers didn’t want to wait until Black Friday to stock up on self-purchases and gifts.

“Consumers were pushed to buy early with fears that supply chain issues would put a damper on holiday stock levels,” said Larissa Jensen, Vice President, Beauty Industry Advisor, The NPD Group.

According to research from the National Retail Federation, half of shoppers took advantage of early sales or promotions before Thanksgiving. More than 80 percent felt deals were the same or better than last year.

Early promotions and buzz not only boosted volume at Macy’s but also produced big Black Friday results.

“Black Friday was huge,” said Nata Dvir, Macy’s Chief Merchandising Officer. “We shared our biggest holiday deals throughout the month of November and ramped up on exclusives and premium products from the best brands. Consumers continue to spend, and we expect a strong holiday season. We are seeing increased optimism as consumers celebrate getting together with their families again, exchanging gifts and dressing up.”

The early shopping pattern supports the notion that consumers have pent up demand for beauty.

“We absolutely saw customers shopping earlier this year, with traffic picking up significantly prior to Black Friday,” said Glow Recipe’s co-CEO, Christine Chang. “This let us know that customers were eager to get their shopping done earlier in the week and with new items launching each day, such as our site-exclusive Glow Café Vault Set. We gave customers opportunities throughout the week to shop their favorite Glow Recipe products. We also saw triple-digit growth for traffic and revenue on many days throughout Cyber Week.”

Data shows that people want to go back to in-store shopping., which tracks shopping center and mall traffic, noted Ulta Beauty visits were up more than 42 percent versus last year on Black Friday; Sephora climbed 97.5 percent versus 2020 and 20.5 percent when stacked against pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Beauty categories in demand included fragrances, beauty tools (such as the Dyson AirWrap), eye products and self-care.  Lisa Yarnell, board advisor to AVYA Skin, pinpointed eye creams as a hot commodity for faces still covered by masks.

Always a holiday stable, fragrance was a star.

“Fragrance gift sets were front and center across many retailers. The runaway winner in most of these sets was the mini-juice, which was featured alongside the full-juice bottle,” said Larissa.

Nata also voiced enthusiasm about fragrances, especially gift sets.

“We believe they will continue to have a strong performance for holiday gift-giving. Gift sets were by far the most popular items with customers. Fragrance gift sets were in high demand with customers gravitating toward luxury brands like Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Carolina Herrera and Lancôme,” Nata said.  “Limited-edition holiday beauty gift sets from core brands like Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Clinique were also very popular. These holy grail sets allow customers to gift or self-gift with the best of the best from these brands. Lipstick sets were also a hot item with customers buying at both value and luxury price points signaling a big return to celebratory dressing.”

For Credo Beauty, holiday is more of a self-purchase time, said co-founder and COO Annie Jackson. The past week showed “an amplification of the strong color business we have seen for some time now.  The innovation and product development in the makeup space is incredible and the business continues to gain market share.  This is a shift from previous years where more customers were stocking up on skincare during the holidays,” Annie added.

Peering into shoppers’ baskets, NPD’s Larissa also observed that hair care is expected to have a record-breaking holiday year.

And brands absolutely tapped the power of social media to drive sales.

Ron Robinson, Cosmetic Chemist, Founder and CEO of BeautyStat Cosmetics, tapped the power of social media to build a buzz.

“We promoted to our customers with a personal touch by posting a series of videos to our Instagram and Facebook stories highlighting our year’s best points, such as awards won and new launches,” said Ron, who filmed and narrated the Stories. In addition, the brand sent out emails and used paid Facebook ads to draw awareness of its deals.

“Our Black Friday sale offered 30 percent off site-wide and free shipping, which ran from Friday, November 26th  to Sunday, November 28th. We brought in more revenue during this time period than our monthly average,” Ron said. “Cyber Monday we offered a lower discount and limited to our sets only – 15 percent off on sets and free shipping. We did not see as good of a performance on Cyber Monday as we did on Black Friday.”

MDSolarSciences teased the holiday shopping event to ensure consumers signed up for email and/or SMS.

“We ran paid media and search campaigns, and also partnered with several key influencers to relay the Holiday news.  Response has been very strong across the board, with a nice increase in new to brand,” said MDSolarSciences CEO, Renee Plato.

ILIA Beauty combined both selling opportunities into one event on its direct-to-consumer site.

“It was incredibly powerful this year resulting in 55 percent year over year growth. We saw the strongest conversion across all complexion products with our hero, Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, growing by over 80 percent,” said Lynda Berkowitz, ILIA’s CEO.  “True Skin Serum Concealer and our Radiant Priming Serum were also high growth items that contributed to a strong average order value.” Shoppers also dug into researching products leading up to the event. “Over 6,000 customers, more than three times the average, were shade matched before the event and resulted in a conversion rate of over 50 percent.”

At least one retailer said that rampant discounting isn’t a necessary strategy this year. Jessica Richards, founder of SHEN Beauty, eschews the “Black Friday, Cyber Monday” noise in favor of offering beauty as an evergreen category. “I find it counterintuitive to discount. Not only that, but people generally look to big box retailers during this time and spend more of their holiday dollars closer to the actual holiday.” Instead, for Black Friday, SHEN offered a curated assortment of goods that customers received when they spent $200 or more. “It was a value of $200 and we only had 50 bags, which sold out in an hour,” Jessica said. For Cyber Monday, the specialty beauty retailer offered those who spent $150 to get $25 off of the order, which she said resulted in a nice sales lift.

Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week as it has become) hit the mark for some brands—despite concern of how sales would fare with physical doors open.

“Coming off of 2020 when online demand had reached record-highs, we didn’t know quite what to expect this holiday season, but we were able to beat our 2020 performance significantly for both the full Cyber Week period and Black Friday,” said Glow Recipe’s co-CEO Sarah Lee.

Black Friday is still an important part of holiday shopping, but it has become more important than ever to look at the holiday season as the longer tail of the entire fourth quarter, summed up NPD’s Larissa.

“As brands and retailers extend the holiday deals, and as shoppers start shopping earlier, the spike in sales during Black Friday will soften over time. The beauty industry will have a very happy holiday, but those results won’t rest on the success of this one weekend alone,” Larissa said.

Here, some bestsellers by brand and retail outlet:

Amazon: Some of the best-selling items were Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil, EcoTools Makeup Brush Set, Jade Roller & Gua Sha, Face Roller and La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer.

AVYA Skincare: Best sellers included eye creams, night moisturizes, hand treatments and gift sets with travel sizes. Sales are up four times over last year.

Biossance: “Black Friday/Cyber Monday have typically been a very big moment for us, but this year’s sales were unprecedented. We created a strategy to design products exclusively for BFCM, inspired by our community and what they have been requesting. That strategy paid off as we saw our sales increase 76 percent versus this time a year ago, and our exclusive offering, a jumbo size Squalane + Omega Repair Cream, sold out within four days.  We see clients searching for more simplified routines, at greater value and with planet-conscious packaging options, so this will serve as a proof point for us to continue providing customers with value-size offerings for our hero skus in 2022,” said Catherine Gore, President of Biossance.

Glow Recipe: Clinical treatments and serums had big moments during Cyber Week, especially the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops (which went viral on TikTok) and the recently launched Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum. “We also saw that our core customer favorites like Pink Juice Moisturizer and Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner had very strong performance during the week,” Christine said.

MDSolarSciences: “Similar to many other brands, Black Friday was a week-long event instead of the more traditional one- to two-day sale. We wanted to give our customers more time to shop so that they could still enjoy their Thanksgiving Holiday.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I felt particularly rushed this year and I needed a few extra days to pivot my thinking to gift giving. All in all, performance was excellent, an indicator that more and more people are aware that wearing SPF year-long is essential and skincare/selfcare is a perfect gift idea. Best sellers were our mineral sunscreen SPF 50 and Mineral tinted Crème SPF 30,” said Renee.

SHEN Beauty: The categories that spiked in sales during the sale weekend were self-love, vibrators and women’s pleasure serums, as well as body care. “Makeup has started to slump again due to the rise of the new variant coming out. This holiday we have focused our efforts on driving giftable easy options to our customers and helping them create the perfect gift for their friend/family/colleague,” said Jessica.

Trophy Skin: The top three sellers continue to be tabletop microdermabrasion devices (UltradermMD & MicrodermMD) and a red-light therapy device (RejuvaliteMD). “Since we were promoting gift-giving bundles, we also had a lot of excitement and sales around accompanying skin care serums (like Argan Anti-Aging Serum) and microdermabrasion accessories (like replacement diamond tips),” the company said.

ZIIP Beauty: Both in-store and DTC sales were great, but we saw huge lift in DTC.  The results were incredible and we are very pleased. We rarely have sales, and especially site wide. This was a great opportunity for ZIIP to continue to further communicate that ZIIP brings users serious, performance-driven expert facials on demand and has more capabilities to deliver results (all via an app) than any other at-home device on the market.  So, for customers who have been eyeing it or considering the investment, we do think this nudged them to make the purchase.