U.S., Chinese beauty appetite fuel L’Oreal forecast-beating Q4 sales

L’Oreal stand is seen on a drugstore in Krakow, Poland on January 26, 2022.

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Holiday spending in the U.S. and China helped L’Oreal beat growth expectations over the crucial end-of-year period as consumers splurged on beauty products.

Fuelled by North America – the fastest-growing region for L’Oreal – and mainland China, the world’s largest cosmetics group’s sales rose 11.2% on a like-for-like basis over the last three months of 2021 to 9.09 billion euros ($10.40 billion), beating the 8.74 billion euros forecast of analysts in a
Refinitiv poll.

“L’Oreal was firing on all cylinders in 2021,” said Nicolas Hieronimus, chief executive officer of the beauty giant, noting it outperformed the market which almost returned to pre-pandemic levels. L’Oreal sales grew 11.3% compared to 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak.

As sporadic lockdowns in China and surging Omicron cases in the U.S. disrupted traditional retail channels, online shopping grew to account for nearly a third of sales.

L’Oreal, which has been shifting resources to boost digital channels, touted record sales on Alibaba’s Tmall platform during China’s Singles Day shopping bonanza in November.

In North America, where it gained market share in all divisions over the year, L’Oreal cited its new Maybelline Sky High mascara and Ralph’s Club fragrance under the Ralph Lauren label as performance boosters.

The company’s spending on advertising and promotions, closely watched by investors, grew slightly over the second half of the year, resulting in an annual operating margin of 19.1%, a tad below the consensus cited by Credit Suisse analysts ahead of the results.

This year, the group behind brands like Kiehl’s and Vichy expects to outperform the market, as well as grow sales and profits.

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