Cosmetic purchasing is influenced by economy, reports Mintel

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Consumer purchasing of cosmetics and skincare products is directly influenced by the economy, a Mintel survey of US shoppers reveals.

It finds while this category is improving, it is not thriving just yet.

Just over a quarter (27%) of shoppers surveyed say they made replacement purchases in colour cosmetics, but avoided splurge products in 2010, down from 33% in 2009.

In addition, 39% of those surveyed said they actively looked for sales and tried to only buy products on sale during 2010 versus 45% in 2009.

“Women are really starting to do their research when it comes to making cosmetic and skincare purchases. The days where favorite beauty products were simply automatic replacement purchases are gone,” said Kat Fay, senior beauty analyst at Mintel.

“Nearly a quarter of respondents claim to shop around more to compare prices while 16% say they use the internet more to research prices and products.”

Mass merchandisers (57%) and drug stores (45%) were the most popular channels for cosmetic purchasing among women of all ages. This remained relatively unchanged since last year. However, department and specialty stores saw an increase in traffic for color cosmetics. Over the past six months, 23% of Mintel respondents visited department stores followed by Sephora and Ulta (12% and 11%, respectively).

According to Fay, mass merchandisers and drug stores have provided a wider repertoire of branded products and have been very competitive with their pricing through the ongoing recession. There is also less of a stigma associated with shopping at these mass retailers than years past.

Women aged 35-44 (37%) are the most frequent purchasers of colour cosmetics, as many are entering their peak earning years and may be particularly concerned about their professional appearance. Women in this age group are also beginning to see fine lines and other early signs of aging, according to Mintel. As a result, this demographic is likely to purchase more — and a wider variety — of both colour cosmetics and facial skincare.