Beauty industry will bounce back

Thursday, August 13th, 2020 00:00 |
Serge Sacre, the Managing Director of L’Oréal East Africa Ltd. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

With Covid-19 and subsequent restrictions, the sector has taken a beating, but all is not lost, says Serge Sacre, the Managing Director of L’Oréal East Africa Ltd

Harriet James  @harriet86jim

The beauty industry is one of the fastest growing sectors not just in the country, but around the world.

Of this international market, personal care takes a bigger pie, in market volumes, followed by  skin care, which accounts for 60 per cent of the profits.

 So fast has it expanded in Kenya that from 2014, it has seen a notable growth of up to 400 per cent from Sh26 billion to over Sh100 billion in 2018, according to Kenya Cosmetics and Personal Care report. 

This has greatly been attributed to the rise of the middle class, which has seen many crave for new consumer and luxury goods, particularly those that make them look successful and enhances their appearance. 

Consequently, Kenya is presently recognised as the sales and distribution hub for the larger East African market, which many international brands are scrambling to tap into.

Among them is French multinational company, L’Oréal, which has been in the country for the past nine years.

However, with most people now staying at and working from home, beauty product sales and, especially make-up sales have gone down for the entire industry. 

However, Serge Sacre, the Managing Director of L’Oréal East Africa Ltd, believes that diversification is one way beauty companies can be resilient in this season.

For instance, based on their research, they discovered that more than half of their consumers are going natural and they have created products to meet this need. 

They company has also had to diversify its product portfolio introducing to their range products such as sanitisers. 

Great opportunity 

“While our make-up sales have been impacted by the pandemic, we have brands that continue to grow in face care and hair colouration.

That is the reason I still see opportunities in the beauty industry locally. Furthermore, people have started to go out again, after the initial shock phase of the pandemic.

They want to look good and reflect success and that is why we are seeing a positive trend again in our make-up sales,” said Sacre. 

Studies by Euromonitor International indicate that Kenyan women predominantly use foundation/concealer and powder, and to a lesser extent blusher/bronzer/highlighter, products that have long been considered staples in the sector.

However, they are looking for multifunctional products, which companies are out to introduce in their range.

The industry has also seen an increased range of hair products suitabe for both salon and home care, as more women turn to doing their hair at home.

Sacre is optimistic that opening up of the economy will return the beauty category sales back to its pre-pandemic levels as people have adjusted to the new norms and already know how to protect themselves.

He believes that staff too should be motivated in the process hence accordingly, by companies adhering to protocols to curb spread of the virus, and to provide vital tools to employees working at home. 

Although many see stiff competition in the industry, especially with celebrities launching their own make-up lines, Sacre sees this as a great opportunity, especially in Kenya where make-up penetration is below 50 per cent, which is quite low.

“I don’t see them as competition, but rather a way of growing the pie in the industry. 

They (celebrities) are influencing more Kenyans appreciate make-up, thus increasing the category penetration.

In addition, consumers don’t just buy one make-up brand; they will buy mascaras from one brand, nail polish from another, lipstick from another, so this is good for everyone as consumers like to experience different products and brands,” he adds. 

In addition, he believes that for beauty companies to thrive and meet the needs of their clients, research and innovation must be at the core of the business. 

“We want to make sure that our products meet the needs of our consumers.

When we say that our products reduce wrinkles, we say so backed by research that it really does what we say.

We have research and innovation centres not just in Europe, but also here in Africa, which create specific products for African skin and hair.

We work very hard to avail relevant products that will satisfy the needs of our African consumers and delight them,” explains Sacre.

Counterfeit challenge 

As many other industries, the beauty sector has been a victim of counterfeiting.

According to Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) in 2019, 144 brands were found to be harmful and were not permitted in the market.

They comprised of 64 skin lightening creams that had hydroquinone, 52 skin lightening creams with mercury together with its compounds, 11 soap brands comprising of mercury or its compounds and three skin lightening gels.

Sacre is quick to warn Kenyans to be careful in their purchases. 

“People should not be fooled by the cheaper prices and they should make sure whatever product they buy is from reputable brands that are registered and not fakes and copies. 

Some of them have harmful ingredients, which can cause cancer, severe skin issues or damage the hair or eyes.

Of course our products are perfectly safe and have zero harmful ingredients,” he says.

More on Lifestyle