Mintel: Cosmetics market improving; drug, mass go-to sources for products

CHICAGO — In the wake of the turbulent economy, the cosmetic and skin care market, while not yet thriving, is showing signs of improvement. And drug stores and mass merchandisers prove to be the most popular channels for cosmetic purchasing, according to a recent Mintel survey.

The research found that 27% of shoppers surveyed said they made replacement purchases in color 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 only to 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 skin care purchases. The days where favorite beauty products were simply automatic replacement purchases are gone," Mintel senior beauty analyst Kat Fay said. "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."

The study also found that 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 did experience a boost in store traffic for color cosmetics. Over the past six months, 23% of respondents visited department stores, followed by beauty retailers Sephora and Ulta (12% and 11%, respectively).

Mintel noted that women ages 35 to 44 years were the most frequent purchasers (37%) of color cosmetics, as many are entering their peak earning years and may be particularly concerned about their professional appearance. Women in this age group also are beginning to see fine lines and other early signs of aging, according to Mintel.