News Opinion From The Old World

Rainy Days of Recession Hit Cosmetics Industry

By Colin Hession, Consultant | September 3, 2009

It’s not been a good summer for cosmetics and toiletries, or for a lot of other consumer goods, come to that. Recession has meant rainy days for manufacturers and retailers alike. As consultants, we’ve read and heard about a whole range of stories, from unmitigated disaster to rays of shining hope. Some of our clients have done quite well, whilst others are still struggling.

So rather than add more lengthy descriptions of what we’ve seen, we have tried to summarize our observations in tabular form (below), in the hope that most, at least, of our shorthand notes will be self explanatory. Our observations are based mainly on Europe, although we suspect that they probably apply to the U.S. as well, in fact to most Western markets around the world.

Men’s Professional Hair Care

For some time it has been clear that there’s space for another major brand of upscale male hair care on the international scene. By upscale we mean a line that is distributed by hairdressing salons, as well as some prestige outlets.

To date, the Spanish hair care company, Colomer, based in Barcelona has had a free run with its male brand, American Crew. But now L’Oréal has launched L’Oréal Professionel Homme, so at least there is some competition. But we have been a tad surprised to see how understated this latest challenger is from L’Oréal, not to say plain bland.

We have to wonder whether P&G might have been better advised to enter the upscale male hair care race, rather than add little Zirh to Gillette’s huge hold on the shaving category. After all, P&G’s prestige team in Geneva has been doing great things in male fragrance with Hugo Boss, which would seem a natural extension into upscale male hair care. Or P&G could have purchased American Crew from CVC, Colomer’s private equity owner. We tend to think the field is still open…

L’Oreal Professionel Homme, surprisingly bland for L’Oréal.
Apropos of not very much, we note that a German health care magazine recently reported that 51% of males surveyed agreed with the statement that men become more interesting and attractive as they grow older. This compared with 24% of women who feared getting older and therefore less attractive…sometimes research just tells you what you already know…

Nivea Links with Designer

German company Beiersdorf has taken the unusual step of signing a licensing
Nivea by Chantal Thomas, a sign of brand dilution?
agreement with French lingerie designer Chantal Thomas to produce a special makeup line featuring both the Chantal Thomas name and the Nivea house logo. The collection, including eight lipsticks, six eyeshadows and two blushers, is launching in several European markets. Bet there was a lot of discussion around the board table in Hamburg about brand dilution, before that particular project was signed off.

L’Oréal in Court in Sweden

It is reported that L’Oréal is being taken to court in Sweden for claims about Lancôme anti-aging products that the Swedish Consumer Ombudsman says the company can’t substantiate. The Ombudsman, a government body, is apparently insisting that the product claims in question—that the products can smooth out wrinkles by up to 70%—are not backed up by scientific evidence.

Of course, this is not the first time claims from a major international cosmetics manufacturer have been queried, nor will it be the last. But the strategic point here is that for the beauty industry to prosper, it is surely to be welcomed that its claims are held up to public scrutiny from time to time. Otherwise public cynicism, already high in regard to cosmetics, will undermine the premium that the industry requires for genuine innovation, i.e. products that really do work.

Straws in the Wind

Scuttlebutt says that M&A is on the rise once again…Lumene skin care is now in CVS, Target and even down in South America, looking good with plenty of competitive insulation thanks to its Finnish berries and Nordic light…and in U.S. hairdressing salons, that hot color brand, Framesi, has recently returned to its Italian owner.

Wonder how long before these two little jewels will be swallowed up?

Rexona faces increasing international competition.

Deodorant Challenges

We’ve written before about Unilever’s dominance in the global deodorant category as well as Beiersdorf’s threat with its new Nivea Silver (see Happi, p. 50, May 2009). Seems there may be other challenges, too.

It would appear that L’Oréal, which has to date only competed seriously in deodorants in its domestic market of France, may well be looking at the category afresh on an international basis. The company is testing Garnier Mineral Deodorants in a number of places.

Then there’s Henkel, which acquired Right Guard when P&G was forced to divest that brand prior to completing the acquisition of Gillette, and must now be looking to make good on its investment. And finally P&G, which in addition to Gillette, also has Old Spice, Sure and Secret in the U.S. and looks set to make another push internationally, having failed to establish Secret in Europe in the past.

All of this could start to drill a hole in the bank vault that is Unilever’s high 30s global deo share!
About the Author
Colin Hession is managing director of Colin Hession Consulting, a specialist consultancy that focuses exclusively on personal care in Europe, in terms of commercial and marketing development. Tel: 44-1202-710377. Fax: 44-1202-710399. E-mail: Website: