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Image: Moda Operandi

Sales of goods that COVID firmly relegated into a corner are starting to rebound, in some cases in a big way, making for increased demand for things like lipstick and an opened floodgate for all things wedding. First up: Lipstick sales, which are growing again, as mask mandates continue to loosen amid the roll out of vaccines across the U.S. Following a striking slump in makeup sales in 2020, with sales across the prestige beauty segment down 34 percent for the year, according to market research firm NPD, which pointed to “broader lifestyle changes due to the pandemic moved the needle in unprecedented ways” as driving the drop in beauty purchases. Among the hardest hit within the beauty sphere was, of course, lipstick, while things like skincare and eyeshadow did not fare as poorly. 

Down by almost 50 percent in Japan in 2020, sales of lip products on Amazon saw a slip of 15 percent in between March and April 2020, while prices were down by almost 30 percent for the month-long period, per McKinsey & Company. Yet, with lockdowns out of sight in the U.S., and masks swiftly becoming less of a daily requirement, the category is bouncing back. Citing the latest figures from market research firm IRI, CNN reported this week that while lipstick sales have no reached pre-pandemic levels, they did, nonetheless, reach $34.2 million between March and April of this year, “an increase of more than 80 percent from the same period last year.” 

Walmart, for one, told CNN that lipstick is “the top performer across all segments of cosmetics” at the moment, and that lipstick sales were “a standout” in its latest quarter, which ended on April 30, as consumers resumed their purchasing of pre-pandemic-esque products, such as teeth-whitening kits, formal apparel), travel bags, and of course, cosmetics, in lieu of sweatpants, athleisure, homewares, etc. “Both Walmart and Macy’s reported strong results for the latest period and boosted their outlooks as consumers, flush with stimulus checks and buoyed by the vaccination rollout, unleashed spending on items they haven’t needed for more than a year,” Bloomberg reported early this week.

The Floodgates are Opening

Look beyond the lipstick-specific headlines and there is another bright spot on the horizon: a boom for the wedding industry. The business of brides and grooms – which is valued at upwards of $300 billion – was hit especially hard by the pandemic, and is expected to lose nearly $50 billion in sales between 2020 and the end of 2021 as a result, as couples joined a mass move to cancel or postpone weddings that were previously slated to take place in 2020. In a nod to the nuptial-specific upheaval that came with COVID, wedding planning site The Knot asserted in its recently-released “2020 Real Weddings Study [COVID-19 Edition]” that 96 percent of all 2020 weddings were modified to some extent. For instance, 32 percent of couples that planned to marry in 2020 still had a small ceremony but scheduled a larger reception for 2021. 15 percent postponed their events entirely, opting to forego any events in 2020.

Now, with COVID-19 restrictions consistently easing, the floodgates are opening and “momentum” in the wedding industry – which saw an overall drop in revenues of 20 percent in 2020 – is “coming back,” David’s Bridal CEO James Marcum told the Wall Street Journal. David’s Bridal revealed that July and August 2021 wedding dates have increased 35 percent compared to last year, and 2022 dates are up 22 percent already. At the same time, a rep for Walmart told Business Insider that its sales of bridal jewelry spiked by 80 percent in April compared to the same time last year, while the American multinational retail chain is also seeking a surge in demand for artificial flowers, wedding décor, and wedding-specific arts and crafts. 

Meanwhile, at the higher end of the spectrum, Monique Lhuillier recently revealed that as of late last month, “ready-to-wear and special occasion sales [were] ‘a bit slow to come back,’” but that bridal sales were, nonetheless, on the rise in the U.S. – with some of that coming by way of online appointments and e-commerce sales, which have accelerated during the pandemic. 

Reflecting on how Oscar de la Renta – which has famously dressed the likes of Amal Clooney – adapted to mandated store closures, co-creative director Fernando Garcia told Brides that the brand “created a Zoom call type of interview process to discuss what each bride wants to do,” which he said led to “a more personalized experience for our brides and therefore, [has] increased the demand for gowns, which came as a surprise to us. We essentially developed a new selling tool that helped the business and increased our sales.”

And still yet, e-commerce retailers like Moda Operandi have sought to cater to brides-to-be by way of its trunk-sale site – curating everything from dresses and accessories for “micro weddings” (think: Jacquemus linen frocks, Simone Rocha midi dresses, and no shortage of slip dresses) to maintaining a packed “For the bride” section on its site with bridal jewelry, and Markarian and Miu Miu gowns in case the bride opts to buy off the rack, a consumption trend that has been on the rise in the midst of COVID and the onslaught of Zoom weddings, complete with slightly more pared back dresses.

Dresses aside, putting the push for 2021 weddings – and the scramble of those aiming to walk down the aisle this year – firmly into perspective, the traditional Saturday wedding has gone out of the window. “Monday is the new Saturday in Palm Beach,” Caroline Scarpinato, director of event services at the Breakers Palm Beach, told the WSJ. “With such limited availability, couples are willing to host their event on a Monday or Thursday.”