JUST WHEN YOU ARE STARTING TO FEEL COMFORTABLE paddling around the demographic tidal pool, along comes yet another group to muddy the retail
waters—Generation Z, also known as
Admittedly, it is a bit early to start the
hand wringing over a group of custom-
ers that are in the 12- to 19-year age
group. Many of which are still living on
an allowance from their parents.
By all accounts, this is going to be
a powerful and challenging demo-
graphic. And as the erudite Chinese gen-
eral and philosopher Sun Tzu observed
in his seminal work The Art of War: “If
you know the enemy and
know yourself, you need
not fear the result of a
This could be shap-
ing up to be one helluva
battle for the hearts and
minds of a generation
of digital natives that
some observers feel will
be as different from their
Millennial predecessors as
that generation was from
However, this column is not just
about the numbers, social media or
technology. And it is not about how to
sell this demographic more food or how
to enhance their culinary experience.
It is about a category that has been
eliminated, or largely ignored, by many
retailers—beauty products and how
they could be the on ramp for a huge
new customer base.
GenZ’s buying power is already about
$44 billion, and 75 percent of them say
they spend more than half of the money
available to them monthly, according to
a study conducted by the IBM Institute
for Business Value. Just as important
is the fact that while they have never
known life without the internet or
mobile phones, 98 percent of them
shop in stores—and like it.
A big part of that visit—and something that could be shared by supermarkets—is the rapidly escalating
beauty spending by young female consumers. But if you think a 4-foot run of
low priced, J-pegged, shrink-wrapped
products is going to cut it, think again.
This is not a new concept.
Supermarkets have been wrestling
with price and assortment on cosmetics and other beauty products since the
first combo stores and supercenters
opened their doors in the mid-1970s.
Over the years, these products have
been eclipsed by other categories at
most conventional stores. But it is time
to revisit the potential.
According to Deep Dive, a sort of
think-tank for the Fung Retail Group,
teenage girls are spending about $2.3
billion on the core beauty categories,
including skincare, cosmetics and fra-
grances. Interestingly, while much of
this purchasing is going to more upscale
brands like MAC and Urban Decay, tradi-
tional drugstore or supermarket budget
and mass market brands like Maybelline
and Cover Girl are still favored brands,
and stores like Target and Walmart are
among their favorite retailers.
For one thing, the American
Psychological Association has found
that social media which is so important to GenZers in their formative years
and the platform they most turn to for
advice, is pressuring more teen girls to
look good, a factor that is going to drive
up spending on beauty products now
and into the future. Even now, spending
in this category is at its historical high
and there is nowhere to go but up.
If those of you without teenage
daughters or granddaughters are won-
dering about which categories and
products to focus on, Mintel reports it
this way: “While Millennial women are
seeking selfie perfection through con-
touring and highlighting, their little sis-
ters are embracing a more natural look.
Natural-looking hair and makeup are
The company’s survey found that
almost three quarters of girls 12-14,
and 69 percent of those 15-17 prefer
the natural look. A survey on frequently
used beauty products among girls 12 to
17 found that nail care and nail polish,
lip care, mascara, foundation, conceal-
ers and facial cleansing were at the top
of their shopping lists.
If you look at the overall picture,
37 percent of GenZers are spending
money weekly on beauty products and
80 percent are spending on food. There
must be a way for supermarkets to tie
these two together.
MARKUP IN MAKEUP
Young female consumers are rapidly escalating beauty spending; it is time for supermarkets to
revisit the category’s potential.
By Len Lewis
Len Lewis is a regular Grocery
Headquarters columnist and
veteran industry journalist.