Tuesday, 14 September, 2021

Cosmetics: the sector is exploding in exports but remains saturated in France


Never seen. In 2017, French cosmetics sector exports reached 13.6 billion euros. A record which is accompanied by another impressive figure: the trade balance increased by nearly 14% to stand at 10.5 billion euros. “The cosmetics sector therefore ranks this year just behind aeronautics and wines and spirits” specifies Patrick O’Quin, president of the Federation of Beauty Companies (Febea). An export success – and particularly in Asia and the United States, which recorded growth of 25% and 19% -, which proves that “French know-how is not simply based on tradition but that French cosmetics continue to innovate “according to him. And Patrick O’Quin to give an example of this capacity to innovate: “A third of the products on the shelf at the end of 2017 were not there at the beginning of the year”.

But despite this explosion in exports, the French market looks grim. The turnover of the sector is not yet known for 2017 but the president of Febea believes that it “should be of the same order as that of 2016”. That year, the cosmetics sector weighed 11.3 billion euros in France. “According to the first elements, the market in 2017 must have been sluggish, not very dynamic” recognizes Patrick O’Quin. “The activity in France remained penalized by a slightly declining market” was content to indicate L’Oréal, the world number one in the sector, in the publication of its 2017 annual results. Worse, Kantar Worldpanel indicates that ‘in value terms, sales of “hygiene and beauty” products fell by 2.2% last year …

French people reached 13.6 billion euros. A record which is accompanied by another impressive figure: the trade balance increased by almost 14% to stand at 10.5 billion euros. “The cosmetics sector therefore ranks this year just behind aeronautics and wines and spirits” specifies Patrick O’Quin, president of the Federation of Beauty Companies (Febea). An export success – and particularly in Asia and the United States, which recorded growth of 25% and 19% -, which proves that “French know-how is not simply based on tradition but that French cosmetics continue to innovate “according to him. And Patrick O’Quin to give an example of this capacity to innovate: “A third of the products on the shelf at the end of 2017 were not there at the beginning of the year”.

But despite this explosion in exports, the French market looks grim. The turnover of the sector is not yet known for 2017 but the president of Febea believes that it “should be of the same order as that of 2016”. That year, the cosmetics sector weighed 11.3 billion euros in France. “According to the first elements, the market in 2017 must have been sluggish, not very dynamic” recognizes Patrick O’Quin. “The activity in France remained penalized by a slightly shrinking market” was content to indicate L’Oréal, the world number one in the sector, in the publication of its 2017 annual results. Worse, Kantar Worldpanel indicates that ‘in value terms, sales of “hygiene and beauty” products fell by 2.2% last year …

Organic explosion

How to explain this lack of dynamism, at least, of the French market? “The market is already largely saturated” advances Patrick O’Quin before adding another reason: “With all these repeated controversies, consumers are starting to worry while European regulations in the sector are the most stringent.” Endocrine disruptors, nanoparticles … In the cosmetics sector as in the food industry, consumer associations have sounded the alarm on the composition of products. The concern around this subject is great. Clean Beauty, an app to decipher the list of ingredients for beauty products launched in early 2017 by the natural cosmetics start-up Officinea, had more than 130,000 downloads in October.

A mistrust which may have prompted some consumers to reduce the number of products used… and to reinforce the growing use of natural and organic products. Organic cosmetics, it is 480 million euros of sales in France (4% of the market), that is to say 48% more than in 2010. It must be said that in terms of hygiene and beauty, 85% of French women are certainly looking for effective products, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey, but 67% are also concerned about the safety of the products and 54% are even prepared to pay more for natural or organic products. No wonder the large groups in the sector are trying to get into this niche, which is largely invested by specialized players. “The consumer changes in his tastes and his choices but the evolution towards the natural does not mean deconsumption” adds however Patrick O’Quin.

Success of the “homemade”

Another successful trend: that of cosmetics to make yourself. Although the president of Febea thinks that “do it yourself” will remain “marginal” in cosmetics due to the complexity of certain recipes and the constraints linked to storage conditions, this niche seems to have found its audience. “Doing your cosmetics is no more complicated than cooking” assured in November to Challenges Anne Vausselin, CEO of Aroma-Zone. This expert in home cosmetics has a million customers and is experiencing growth in turnover of around 15% to 20% per year. And here too, the search for a better knowledge of the composition of the product and a concern for the environment may have played a role in this craze of the French …

If organic and “homemade” have been gaining momentum for a few years now, Patrick O’Quin points to another emerging trend in France: “personalized cosmetics”, depending on the type of skin. “Cosmetics are no longer ready-to-wear but tailor-made. The mixture is made on site or to do it yourself. This trend, we see it very clearly” he assures, judging that it is linked to digitization. A sign that the sector is constantly reinventing itself …