Like many industries, from hospitality and events to formalwear, the cosmetics industry suffered as a result of COVID-19-enforced lockdowns throughout 2020. With people staying at home during the pandemic, the need, desire and (in some cases) the expectation, to wear make-up or to shampoo every day vanished.
This drop in appetite was accompanied and exacerbated by the mandated closure of physical shops for much of 2020 – something that was particularly damaging to the cosmetics industry, which, according to figures from McKinsey, still made 85 per cent of its sales in-store prior to the pandemic.
That’s not to say that the industry was among the worst-affected by COVID-19. Unlike, say, many former UK high-street fashion retailers, most cosmetics brands had decent online offerings when COVID-19 hit, enabling e-commerce sales to contribute, despite the prevalence of in-store sales and the overall drop in consumer appetite during lockdown.
Meanwhile, some sub-sectors of the wider industry fared well, with the growing focus on self-care during lockdown meaning that areas such as skincare remained resilient. Others were also able to quickly pivot to producing hygiene products such as hand sanitiser, allowing them to tap into soaring demand.
Overall, though, the picture for the industry as a whole was one of managing as best as it could and hoping to wait out the crisis. In 2021, this approach seemed to pay off, as the sector’s sales figures improved dramatically and, concurrently, M&A activity resumed.
This year, the recovery looks set to continue, although that’s not to say that there aren’t headwinds that could continue to impact the industry during 2022. Here, we’ll examine the impact of the pandemic, the recovery, the sector’s prospects for the future and potential challenges that the sector could still face.
The initial impact
2021: The Recovery
What (and who) is driving this recovery?
What challenges does the market face?
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