Breezing into a store and indulging in luxury items is probably not what you have on your mind right now. But wouldn’t it feel good?
Turns out, there are affordable treats out there that will leave you feeling absolutely decadent. They’re just a bit, well, smaller.
The economic forecasters behind the financial Web site Motley Fool reported earlier this week that they weren’t at all surprised when they learned lipstick sales had skyrocketed in recent months.
Like most financial experts, they were familiar with the “leading lipstick indicator,” a scientific measure of the sales of lipstick in trying economic times. The logic is that when money is scarce, women are more apt to buy (and less likely to give up) their lipstick purchases. They’ll splurge on lipstick even as they stop spending on high-priced clothing or jewelry.
It makes them feel better, and it doesn’t put a huge dent in their wallets.
The theory was the brainchild of Leonard Lauder, chairman of the cosmetics company Estee Lauder. And though it was based on mere speculation, it’s proved to be a pretty good gauge.
To sum up, Lauder’s statement was, “When things get tough, women buy lipstick.”
And when these women buy lipstick, he theorized, they don’t want the $3 discount tubes from the bargain bin at a discount store. They want the real deal – the over $10 and up stuff – usually in sleek packaging, always in some standout color.
During the Great Depression, lipstick sales reportedly rose 25 percent. Lauder coined the term “lipstick index” in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, when he observed a dramatic lipstick sales increase.
Peggy Perdue of Merle Norman in Montgomery said sales of her stores’ skin treatment products, which have a devoted following, have changed very little. Yet there has been a surge in sales of “color,” meaning lipstick and all the other little non-practical beauty luxuries that somehow can just make your day.
“They are buying the sheer pinks and the lighter berries,” she said of the lipstick-hungry women frequenting her stores (one in The Shoppes at EastChase and one in Eastdale Mall). “With lip color if you have nothing else, it brightens your face. That, and a big pair of sunglasses, are all you need.”
It’s all about treating yourself, but in small ways. Treats can only qualify as treats if you really don’t need them, if all they do is provide you with a moment or two of sheer, unadulterated luxury.
That’s where chocolate enters the picture.
It makes sense that the lipstick theory could extend to chocolate, long touted as the ultimate “feel-good” food. Earlier this month, proprietors of the New York dessert bar the Chocolate Room told CBS that their place has recently turned into “a madhouse” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
More indicators: Hershey’s, Nestle’s and Mars all reported increased sales in 2008.
At Prattville’s Chocodelphia, owner Laura Hart isn’t seeing overall sales increase; what she is seeing are people coming in to the gourmet chocolate boutique and carefully picking out one or two items.
“To me, and based on what customers say, chocolate is a comfort food. It just eases your troubles for a little bit,” Hart said.
She said in the last few weeks the store has seen more customers than usual for this time of year – again, behaving less like big spenders than stress refugees looking for a temporary escape.
“Instead of coming in and buying a pound of truffles, they’ll buy one or two truffles,” Hart said. “You can see them smile as they bite into it.”
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