Lipstick index: Shoppers want a little bit of luxury with premium cosmetics

Bright red lipstick? You must be a New Yorker

While nail art has been dominating beauty news during the ongoing fashion week season, a recent report by the NPD Group revealed the nail category grew by 67% in the US in 2011.

The North American-based market research company recently released its analysis of 2011 beauty sales of department store brands, and in a year where polish lines from everyone ranging from The Muppets to Katy Perry were released, the nail category's growth was one of the key elements attributing to an overall rise of 9% in make-up profits compared to 2010.  

Shoppers haven't only been focusing on their nails though, as increased sales have been noted across categories including eye make-up and lipstick.

"In the 15 years that NPD has been tracking the prestige beauty industry, we have never seen growth like this -- especially across all categories," the NPD Group's vice president and senior global industry analyst Karen Grant explained.

Also worth noting is that items with a premium price point have been enjoying some of the largest increases.

"Although prestige beauty growth continues at both ends of the spectrum, it is the high-end, premium price points that experienced the strongest gains," added Grant.

These statistics back up the "lipstick index" theory, originally coined in the early 2000s to express how cosmetic sales are often inversely correlated to economic health as women substitute extravagant fashion purchases with beauty buys.

Consumers also reignited their interest in eyeshadow, as the industry grew by 14%, marking the first increase since 2006, while lip color increased by 13%.

Similar trends emerged across the Atlantic, with nail polishes seeing a growth of 20% in France last year compared to a 14% increase for lipsticks and 7% for eyeshadows.

In the UK, make-up enjoyed an almost 9% rise in 2011, with releases from the likes of Lancôme, Dior, YSL and Chanel seeing interest particularly roused in the lipstick category at the start of the year. There, NPD Group argues shoppers will always find the money for a beauty treat.

"...The consumer loves beauty, wants beauty and feels a need for beauty -- however tough the economic environment might be," said June Jensen, director for NPD Beauty UK.