December 02, 2021
Nearing the end of a year in which the pandemic stubbornly refused to disappear and the global infrastructure underpinning the consumer packaged goods industry buckled, the fervor surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday faded as consumers spread their purchases out throughout the fourth quarter and weighed whether they felt comfortable entering stores.Adobe Analytics’ statistics show that online sales on Black Friday were essentially flat at $8.9 billion versus $9 billion last year. Bluecore figures visitors to health and beauty websites dropped 15% on Black Friday from the prior year. Cyber Monday didn’t provide the surge retailers and brands were hoping for. Instead, sales on the day dipped 1.4% to come in at $10.7 billion, according to Adobe Analytics.“For the first time, PuffCuff saw a large drop in Black Friday sales, which was similar to the overall trend. This drop can be attributed to the digital marketing world’s split between Facebook and Apple as well as this year’s extended Black Friday sales, which began weeks or months before Black Friday. Sales on our website were down by 65%,” says Ceata E. Lash, inventor, founder and co-CEO of PuffCuff. She continues, “On a more positive side, we saw a 3% increase in average order value from 2020 to 2021. Customers are buying and adding more of our ancillary items to their carts.”Brick-and-mortar retail performance improved from last year, but wasn’t a blockbuster. Tracking retail visits, Sensormatic Solutions detected store traffic fell 28.3% from 2019, but was up 47.5% from 2020. For beauty retailers specifically, traffic analytics firm Placer.ai noticed a boost. On Black Friday, Ulta Beauty notched a 10.3% traffic bump from 2019.“I think shopping is accelerating not only due to the pandemic restrictions lifting, but from stock market, real estate and crypto gains,” says Degelis Tufts Pilla, co-founder of TribeTokes, a CBD brand that saw its sales multiply 5.5X on Black Friday/Cyber Monday from the same stretch last year. Still, she says, “NYC felt dead on Black Friday. There were not many shoppers walking around.”The National Retail Federation remains optimistic about the holiday shopping season overall. It forecasts sales will climb 8.5% to 10.5% from last year to land at between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. The NPD Group has been bullish on beauty based on survey data revealing about a quarter of consumers plan to purchase beauty products during the holiday season.
Indie beauty brands typically started their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales earlier than previous years and prolonged them beyond Cyber Monday. “The days of just Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions are long gone,” says Kate Lazarus, director of marketing at Klar & Co., formerly Trendsformers, parent company of Fortify+ and a dozen other skincare brands. “Retailers and brands are offering promotions that span the entire month of November. We decided to extend our sale into the week after Cyber Monday, and we have seen a lot of our competitors in the space decide to as well.”Lash says, “Black Friday is soon becoming a relic of the past. Customers were underwhelmed and grew tired of the whole BF concept. Even with steep reductions, holiday promotions begin far too soon. There is no sense of urgency any longer. To deliver an immersive experience for online consumers, we anticipate the need for exciting content, brand collaborations and influencers.”At haircare brand TO112, a 40% assortment-wide discount ran from Nov. 17 to 29. In 2020, the brand only did a sale for six days. “Consumers could take their time and shop at their leisure without the flashing lights and the pressure of now or never,” says director of marketing Fiona Pincente. TO112’s sales have doubled year-over-year for the last three years.Supply chain woes impacted the size of Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts. Across the board in the United States, Salesforce estimates the average discount was 27%, down 7% from last year. Areesa Botanicals ran a 20% discount, a reduction from the 30% discount it did last year. “This year, the cost of goods has definitely increased,” says founder Ikhlaas Majid, noting the costs of some ingredients have skyrocketed 50%. “However, our prices have not reflected the increase in raw material prices yet. Also, our products are moderately priced as compared to some other comparable brands. Due to this, we could not offer more than a 20% discount.” While the brand almost doubled its sales for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period, profitability slumped.
At Shea Radiance, the Self-Care Beauty Bundle with African Black Soap Bar, Whipped Shea Butter, African Black Soap Body Wash and 100% Sisal Wash Cloth was a hit. “The benefits of self-care are a huge influence in purchasing decisions since the pandemic,” says co-founder Funlayo Alabi. “In our newsletters, we promote the benefits of self-care, especially during these very stressful times. Ninety percent of our customers are women, and we know that women carry a heavy share of the load when it comes to caring for the family and others. We position our self-care bundles as the perfect relaxation treat for hardworking women looking to minimize stress.”Ascention founder Greta Fitz says, “There is a general heavy level of continuous stress from the ongoing pandemic, and how the results of the pandemic manifest in work, family, school and life in general. Customers are shopping for their wellness, prioritizing their mental health and living space. I’ve noticed that anything that brings comfort, destress and little bits of joy/escapism were popular, especially if it’s trending on TikTok.” The fragrance brand’s Stayin’ Aligned Parfum Kit was a success. Its Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales improved 34% from last year.Beauty brands are discovering holiday shoppers aren’t swayed by fluff or snazzy novelties. Instead, they’re zeroing in on staple items. “They are choosing to pare down routines and focus on the core skincare that they actually need,” says Lazarus, singling out Fortify+’s Protecting Facial Mist as a bestseller. She elaborates, “We have seen that the type of skincare that people were searching for when they were stuck at home greatly differs from people’s wants and needs now that they are back out in the world. Instead of fun peel-off masks and at-home treatments, people are looking for health-focused products that help keep them strong, safe and nourished.”Rookie’s Wake and Sleep supplements were bestsellers. The wellness brand’s Black Friday sales leapt 90%, and combination Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales escalated 260%. Founder Roxanne Wise says, “We are in a pretty unique time right now. We are two years into a global pandemic, with economic uncertainties and supply chain issues everywhere. I believe that people were deliberate in their purchasing this year, stocking up on things they need or use and were more focused on what their needs were.”
Although Tyler Moore, social media manager at Truly Beauty, asserts beauty is pandemic-proof, he isn’t confident it can command high prices and thrive. He says, “Most people were looking for a discount due to financial restraints over the last two years. I think this will be the same mood throughout 2022.”Lazarus senses shoppers are cautious, too. “There are new variants popping up, and the future seems uncertain again,” she says. “They aren’t not going to buy, but they are more conscious of what they are buying and are seeking higher value than ever before. During quarantine and into post-quarantine, we have seen a huge uptick in interest for affordable beauty, and we anticipate that being a trend that will remain strong well into the future.”
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