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FEELING GOOD

Self-care is helping retailers stay afloat

Shoppers wait outside in a queue a Bath and Body Works retail store in New York City during the holiday shopping season.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
  • Karen Ho
By Karen Ho

Global finance and economics reporter

Published

Americans are continuing to pamper themselves and their loved ones during the pandemic.

Growing interest in skincare and self-care—along with the closure of many salons and spas—has meant significant increases in sales of soaps, lotions, fragrances, hair appliances, candles, and other beauty products.

On Jan. 7, Helen of Troy, a global consumer products company, said its beauty segment grew 56% during the quarter ending Nov. 30. The increase was driven by significant demand for its haircare appliances, especially its popular Revlon One-Step which dries and curls hair, sold at retailers like Walmart and Amazon. “The pandemic has led to a rise of do-it-yourself beauty,” said CEO Julien R. Mininberg during an earnings call. “Consumer priorities have shifted towards products that allow them to mimic the salon experience at home, buy online, and look great during virtual meetings.”

Fashion retailer L Brands also said it benefited from increased demand for its soaps, lotions, candles, and hand sanitizer during the holidays. The company said comparable sales at Bath & Body Works, an L Brands subsidiary, grew 17% for the nine weeks ending Jan. 2. Sales through its website and print catalog also grew by 64%.

Victoria’s Secret, another L Brand company which sells fragrances, lingerie, and clothing, did not do as well, with comparable sales falling by 9% for the same period. While the lingerie and clothing company saw 24% growth on its website and print catalog, in store sales fell by 23%.

At Bed Bath and Beyond, the personal care business is also “booming” said CEO Mark Tritton, and important to its same-store sales, which were up 2% in the  quarter ending Nov. 28. The company did not break out category-specific revenues.

A larger retail trend

These sales at Helen of Troy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Bath & Body Works are part of larger retail trends in beauty during the pandemic as consumers could no longer go to hair or nail salons, wore less makeup, and experimented with skincare at home. “No one is getting holiday haircuts,”  said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst.

Beauty and wellness may continue to be bright spots for retail in 2021, but Hamrick said a major challenge for growth will be consumers who continue to avoid physical stores due to Covid-19. “That’s why there’s incredible pressure on places like Bed Bath & Beyond to pivot to online because they suffer from having huge footprints, a lot of inventory and they’re dependent on store traffic.”

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