Sales of beauty products get boost from recession

Thu Jul 5, 2012 5:07pm EDT
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Tough economic times are boosting sales of beauty products and designer jeans as women put more emphasis on looking good and attracting a partner, according to a university study.

Researchers in Texas found that a downturn in the economy has a positive impact on the beauty industry, in what has been dubbed the "lipstick effect" and that price is not an issue.

"Although both men and women downsize consumer spending in response to recession cues there is an exception to this and this is beauty products," said Sarah E. Hill, an assistant professor of social psychology at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

"Women have an increased desire to purchase these products in response to recession cues," she added. "Even though they are closing their purse string for other things, they are wanting to splurge on things that can make them attractive."

A downturn in the economy has been linked to an upswing in beauty sales since the Great Depression, according to Hill, whose research is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Figures from market research company NPD Group Inc support the phenomenon. Their numbers show that skin care, makeup and fragrance sales increased 11 percent in the United States in 2011 compared with the previous years.

China, Mexico and Argentina also had double digit rises in beauty product sales last year, while sales increased 9 percent in Britain and 3 percent in France.

Hill and her team examined how and why economic recessions influence women's consumer behavior in a series of experiments. They used real world spending data and asked consumers whether they would buy a series of products after giving them recession cues.   Continued...

A shopper pushes a trolley near the beauty products section inside the Carrefour Planet in Lyon, June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot