The Beauty Industry Response to COVID-19

4 April 2020

By Alice Micheletti


The spread of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) over the past months has led to a profound change of our daily lives. The pandemic continues to expand and governments have been obligated to launch unprecedented public-health and economic actions to respond to the threat (Craven et al., 2020). The impact on the modern economy and above all, industries such as tourism, hospitality and travel is yet to be fully experienced (Scott, 2020).

According to several retailers the COVID-19 will have a negative economic impact also on the fashion, health and beauty categories (Sabanoglu, 2020). Due to COVID-19, Europe’s biggest beauty markets, fragrances and cosmetics, are increasingly slowing down (Weil et al., 2020). However, in the United States, an increase of skin care products sales on Amazon compared to February 2020 has been recorded (Shahbandeh, 2020). Moreover, a further increase of online sales of health and beauty products in the month of March 2020 has been reported in Poland, maybe due to the closure of physical stores (Statista, 2020).

A possible explanation to these results could be motivated by the situation of distress that, as scholars suggested, could increase online impulsive consumption. In fact, as also stated by our founder and consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale, ‘customers can become more impulsive in their purchases when reminded of their mortality’ (Biondi, 2020). Following this reasoning, an increase of sales in the e-commerce could be expected in the future months.

The situation of distress could also lead people to perceive brands in a different way. In fact, due to the lack of control over aspects of the everyday life, brands can become “helpers” (Cutright, 2014). Through the introduction of initiatives, brands can help consumers to cope with the specific situation of distress. In doing so, brands become helpers as they allow people to enhance their personal sense of empowerment and, therefore, feel a major control over their lives (Cutright, 2014). In the current times, it is possible to observe that many beauty brands are adapting their strategies in order to help people overcome this period of constraint. For instance, LVMH beauty brands have adapted their social marketing to keep consumers motivated and positive while self-isolating and social distancing. For instance, they have created a bingo fresh beauty edition in which people cross the activities they have done during this quarantine in regards to the use of beauty products. Consumers have to cross the box if they have done a 6-step skincare routine or a sheet mask with a friend (Copp, 2020). In addition to this, beauty brands are using social media to help consumers enhance feelings of calmness and relaxation. In this context, Estée Lauder can be taken into consideration. In fact, through Instagram, the brand is advising customers on how to transform their personal homes into real life spas and how to create a sensory skincare experience thanks to the use of specific products (@esteelauder, 2020).

Many  beauty brands are greatly contributing by producing and manufacturing those products that are now in greatest need. For instance, in addition to the several donations, the beauty industry is concentrating on the production of hand sanitisers,  hydroalcoholic gel and masks. For instance, The Hut Group, a global leader in health, beauty and lifestyle, has offered £1m to charities and more than £4m worth of critical products and services to NHS staff and people all over Manchester (Parsons, 2020). The company is focusing on tackling the pandemic mainly in Manchester, where the head offices are located, and then across Britain. Such choice is due to the great sense of loyalty towards the local community (Parsons, 2020).

Such sense of loyalty and the wish to build a stronger local community following could be the reasons for which other beauty brands are focusing on tackling the pandemic in their own countries or communities. For instance, Marie-Stella-Maris, brand based in Amsterdam, is taking care of its customers by cycling around the city and refilling soap bottles for free (@mariestellamaris_official). A further brand showing its contribution during the pandemic is organic skincare brand Pai, one of the first brands who started to produce hand sanitiser to give it away to the neighbouring schools, nurseries and charities (Hill, 2020). As Pai Skincare founder, Sarah Brown commented, the company will keep working to bring support and comfort to the vulnerable (Hill, 2020). Further support to its local communities has been shown also by The Body Shop that has been giving free care packages to NHS workers (Hill, 2020).

Although several brands are keeping the production and distribution of different products local, others are attempting to contribute to the common good across countries. For instance, L’Oréal is using its factories to produce hydroalcoholic gel and sanitisers to distribute across Europe (Gardner, 2020). As the chief executive officer, Jean-Paul Agon, stated: “In this exceptional crisis situation it is our responsibility to contribute in every possible way to the collective effort” (Gardner, 2020). The brand wants to express support and solidarity to all those people who are fighting against this pandemic.

As it is possible to observe from only some of the examples provided, the beauty industry is currently fighting the global pandemic by contributing to the free production and distribution of necessary goods that are now in short supply, often to those most in need like healthcare professionals. Several brands are focusing on helping the local communities but others, mostly the bigger ones, are also thinking on a more global scale. Plenty of companies are pitching in where they can but concerns are already arising on the future events once the emergency passes. What will happen to those business that have shifted their focus on such productions? And more importantly, what will happen to the young startups in the beauty industry and all the people that depend on them? We are exploring some of these challenges in our SMEs series of interviews, including this one with Rebecca Saunders, founder of Seekology, an incredible beauty and wellbeing retailer showcasing predominantly small start-up brands.



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