“In this corner, we have industry goliath LVMH, pledging to donate 12 metric tons of hand sanitizer to 39 Paris hospitals in under a week.
And in this corner, we have tiny, farm-based indie Beekman 1802, flipping the switch on its “live baby goat cam” for the world to see. You know, to alleviate stress? To transport you, at least temporarily, to a world in which Covid-19 doesn’t exist?
And in another corner, AP reports that “Germany-based Beiersdorf, whose brands include Nivea and Coppertone, says it is launching production of medical disinfectant in Europe to support the fight against the virus. Beiersdorf said Thursday that it initially will provide 500 tons of disinfectant for hospitals, medical staff and emergency responders such as police and firefighters.”
From every sector of the beauty industry, I’m seeing so much spunk and creativity in reaction to the health and economic nightmare we’re all living right now.
In a weird but happy way, beauty is a market sector that may not get slammed to anyway near the degree that, say, hospitality will be decimated. This is because of both the inherent practicality of some product categories as well as the industry’s feel-good throughline.
In a weird but happy way, beauty is a market sector that may not get slammed to anyway near the degree that, say, hospitality will be decimated. This is because of both the inherent practicality of some product categories (I’ll get to those in a moment) as well as the industry’s feel-good throughline. I’m actually tearing up a bit as I write this, in part because it’s been such a rough few weeks, but also because I so believe in the power of beauty to lift our spirits, to make us feel like we’re in control and able to present our very best face to the world. That’s powerful stuff.
But Back to the Doom and Gloom
Brick-and-mortar beauty retail is understandably being completely hammered right now. As of St. Patrick’s Day, all 1254 Ulta stores were shuttered, and will remain closed until at least March 31. Sephora has closed its stores throughout the U.S. and Canada until April 3. Glossier got in front of the situation, closing its handful of permanent and pop-up locations in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and London for two weeks, beginning March 12.
And then we have all the major department and specialty stores in NYC shutting down. Unthinkable as it is, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Nordstrom are all closed until March 31.
What exactly happens at the end of March remains to be seen, but one can only hope and pray that on April 1 we’ll be catching a glimpse of light at the end of this terrifyingly dark tunnel.
Sidebar to all the store closings: In scrolling Estée Lauder’s Instagram this morning, I was alarmed and saddened to see recent comments like this one from @pitt_kick: “Please close your brick and mortar stores/beauty counters your employees’ health and lives are more important”
This commenter, and others like him/her who made similar “shut your counters” pleas probably isn’t aware of the partnership that exists between a brand like Estée Lauder and a host store like Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. Would it even have been possible for Estée Lauder to close its counter in a still-open department or specialty store? Would that have made any sense, especially when its competition at neighboring counters isn’t following suit? I’m not in position to answer those strategic questions, but my hunch is the answer is no – to both of them.
Right now, every last one of these merchants, particularly Ulta, Sephora and Glossier, must be thanking the money gods that they’ve put such robust e-commerce plans in place. Online sales are poised to go through the roof.
Mindful Messaging Is Crucial Right Now
In her letter to customers about the tough call she had to make in shutting her stores, Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss promised even more digital engagement. “Our incredible online editors, the gTEAM, are standing by to bring that personal touch to your shopping experience on Glossier.com,” she wrote. “Our HQ team, now 250 people, has been working hard since 2014 to create the ultimate beauty e-commerce experience.”
That Glossier’s Weiss was able to strike exactly the right tone in her straightforward but heartfelt letter of March 12 isn’t surprising; she’s built a massive, “unicorn-level” brand by knowing exactly how to speak to her audience. More importantly, she listens, and freely solicits fan feedback in the creation of new products.
The COVID-19 crisis is tasking every brand and purveyor of beauty products to listen to customers harder than they ever have. The rush to produce hand sanitizer by beauty companies both big and small is emblematic of this mindset shift, from selling whatever fantastic slate of new products was planned for spring 2020 to what people might actually need to save their lives.
“Right now, I’m not sure consumers are open to being ‘sold’ to,” Larissa Jensen, beauty industry advisor for NPD Group told The Robin Report. “In a time of fear, panic and crisis, you are thinking of necessities, not luxuries. Much of prestige beauty falls into the luxury category. The opportunity lies not in selling, but in participating in global efforts to get necessities into the hands of those that need it most. L’Oréal, LVMH and Coty have all made a commitment to use their production facilities to produce hand sanitizer for medical teams and hospitals that need them most. That will have a lasting effect in the consumer’s mind, more so than receiving emails or notifications of sales and promotions.”
A Captive, Stir-Crazy Audience in Need of Beauty-Maintenance
Up top, I mentioned beauty products of inherent practicality. If you’re a woman and you’re reading this, you can probably already guess where I’m going next: root touch-up potions.
A few days ago, a former work colleague reposted a spot-on meme making the rounds on Instagram: “Feels like we’re three to four weeks away from learning everyone’s real hair color.”
When my colorist canceled our next appointment because of Coronavirus contagion fears, and told me she’d see me in a month, I panic-bought multiple different root touch-up products, some of which I’ve even tried before and hated. “Why are you buying that one if you hate it?” my teen-age daughter asked. Good question. Because even though I’ve been happily married for close to 20 years I still want to look young-ish and awesome-ish for my husband? Crazy, I know. But there you have it. We’re trapped inside but we still want to look good for ourselves, our families and all those #socialdistancing selfies on Facebook.
Apart from regular pedicures, which are all but mandatory down here in hot-as-hell Florida, I’m not really a “nail person.” But I would imagine that all the DIY mani/pedi stuff – the tools as well as the lacquer and remover – are another stuck-inside category undoubtedly poised to do well in the coming weeks.
And then there’s the other kind of masks, the wrinkle-smoothing, hydrating, relaxing kind that have been a staple of our ever more elaborate skincare routines for several years now. I have a tidy stockpile of those in my office that have been sent to me for review, and even though I’ve never used a mask at home in my entire life, they’re suddenly starting to look really good to me.
Because I want to self-care. Because I want to feel in control. Because beauty makes me happy. And I know I’m not alone. If we keep the women in our lives happy, our relationships and families will thrive through this miserable experience.