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Learning From France’s Savvy Beauty Consumers

By: Eva Martin Fernandez
Posted: March 7, 2011, from the March 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

For decades, anyone who wanted insight into the cosmetics and toiletries market looked to the French consumer. France, the international hub for the beauty industry, has historically been the global pacesetter for cosmetics and toiletries. Even in the down economy, France retained its leading position in the global cosmetics industry, with nearly 25% market share worldwide.

Packaging has always played a critical role in brand recognition in beauty, and as the global beauty industry emerges from the recent recession, what trends and insights can brand owners and packaging manufacturers learn from French consumers now so that they can leverage these insights for the future?

MWV, for example, gleans insights from Parisian consumers in order to support advances of its beauty and personal care customers in 2011. Late in 2010, MWV conducted considerable research in Paris, as well as New York, regarding consumer preferences for airless dispensing systems for facial moisturizers and anti-aging skin care. The following implications arose from MWV’s research in Paris, and provides insight for global brand owners to consider in 2011.

The Insights

Masstige brands benefit when they look like prestige brands. The economy forced consumers worldwide to change how they shopped for products, including beauty products. Even the French consumer made changes to her buying patterns for coveted beauty and personal care purchases. A 2009 Mintel report found that French women are the most dedicated to their beauty products, with 12% saying they cut back on other things to keep buying their favorite products. By comparison, less than one in 10 consumers in the U.S. and U.K. said the same.

However, the same report showed that French women are exceptionally frugal, noting that they prefer to wait until their products are on sale before purchasing them. Taking frugality into consideration, masstige brands in the market have an opportunity to capture more business from price-sensitive consumers in the market—ones who would have previously bought beauty and personal care products from a department store or specialty retailer.