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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Shoppers loyal to cosmetics brands

by Anna Soref

Shoppers are more willing to try a new brand of cold medication than a new brand of lipstick. At least that's what consumers said in a recent survey where only 30 percent of women were willing to switch their cosmetics brand, compared to 68 percent who would be willing to try a different brand of over-the-counter medication.

The survey, published in ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports publication, did find, though, that women are more willing to try generic brands of products than previously, especially for medications. "We were surprised to see that women are so readily willing to switch medications," Lisa Lee Freeman, editor in chief of ShopSmart, said in a statement.

But Lynea Schultz-Ela, owner of A Natural Resource, a natural products industry consulting firm in Hotchkiss, Colo., thinks it makes sense for shoppers to penny pinch when it comes to OTC medication.

"Spending $50 for a beauty product that you know works, and that makes you feel good, and that is not available in the "generic" section, makes sense. Spending $50 for a branded medication when most large retailers sell a $4 equivalent "generic" does not make sense—and pharmaceuticals have federal oversight which gives consumers a degree of confidence in the "generic" equivalent."

Naturals consumers have often lacked the brand loyalty that prevails in the mass sector, but this may be shifting. "Natural product consumers in the baby boom generation certainly do have brand loyalty—and the personal care category is no exception. It's the new demographic of consumers that is experimenting with brands and their willingness to spend on new brands is very strong," Schultz-Ela said.

Whether or not the recent economic downturn will affect consumer loyalty to cosmetics brands remains to be seen. "It will be interesting to see—it may push prices down to maintain volume for manufacturers in the cosmetic industry. Or, we may see consumers do more experimenting to find less expensive cosmetics," Schultz-Ela said. "In my opinion the economy is, or will be, supporting cosmetic brand loyalty because consumers don't want to risk scarce dollars on new brands when they know the old one works."

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