The pandemic will give way to another “roaring 20s” according to L’Oréal, the world’s biggest cosmetics group, which is predicting a makeup sales bonanza as wearing lipstick becomes a “symbol of returning to life”.
L’Oréal, which owns more than 30 brands including Maybelline, Lancôme and Garnier, said it thought sales would accelerate sharply as vaccines were distributed and infection rates dropped.
In a reference to hedonism of the 1920s, following the first world war and 1918 flu pandemic, Jean-Paul Agon, the L’Oréal chief executive, on Friday predicted a “fiesta” in the beauty market.
“People will be happy to go out again, to socialise,” said Agon. “This will be like the Roaring 20s, there will be a fiesta in makeup and in fragrances. Putting on lipstick again will be a symbol of returning to life.”
Cosmetics sales have plummeted during the pandemic as store closures, coupled with the shift to homeworking, saw many women to ditch their makeup bags.
During the original lockdown sales of products once considered an essential part of a daily beauty routine, such as foundation and lipstick, dropped by more than 70%.
L’Oréal’s sales in China, where many Covid-19 restrictions were eased relatively swiftly last year after a strict lockdown, provide a glimpse of what the recovery could look like. Sales there rose 27% in 2020.
The roaring 20s, when people wore daring fashions and partied, were a US not a UK phenomenon, chronicled in the novels of the time including F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
However, the French company is not the only one predicting good times will roll once the pandemic ends.
Last week, Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, suggested people might “go for it” once the vaccine programme allowed the economy to reopen and they could spend the money they had saved.
Last year, UK sales of designer makeup brands sold at counters in department stores fell by more than 40%, a decrease worth almost £500m. The slump was even bigger if the near-£200m hit to sales of cheaper lipsticks and eyeshadows bought in supermarkets is included.
While social lives have been on hold, cosmetics groups have benefited from a step up in demand for skincare products – the makeup equivalent of the leisurewear people have also been wearing – such as face creams and body lotion, to pamper themselves at home. Shoppers also switched to the web to buy beauty products with L’Oréal’s online sales up by two-thirds in 2020.