Return of the ‘lipstick effect’ to combat misery of the downturn

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Tough economic conditions have triggered the “lipstick effect”, with a rise in shoppers buying small beauty treats to cheer themselves up, retailers said.

The John Lewis and Waitrose partnership card has seen a surge in spending on cosmetics, creams and other beauty items in the last three months of 2011.

Analysis of the spending habits of the card’s 553,000 customers found that beauty and skin care spending rose by 48 per cent between October and December 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.

This was echoed by the strength of beauty sales in John Lewis stores, which recorded 26 per cent and 25 per cent increases in sales of Liz Earle and L’Occitane beauty products respectively in the final three months of last year compared with the same period the previous year.

Households have come under pressure from high living costs and deteriorating employment conditions, while seeing little return on their savings.

John Brady, head of commercial for the John Lewis and Waitrose partnership card, said: “Previous economic downturns have shown that people try to cheer themselves up by splashing out on small treats.

“Our figures suggest this is what is exactly happening today on the high street.

“We are certainly seeing a return of the lipstick effect.

“It’s apparent that there are certain luxuries people refuse to give up on, making them arguably recession-proof.”

n UK families are typically £7,900 in debt from personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards, despite three years of paying them down, a report has found.

Meanwhile, credit card use could fall into permanent decline, with the rise of digital technology and payday lenders changing how people access credit, the Precious Plastic report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) said.