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Are we going to witness a ‘Lipstick Effect’?

When the going gets hard, the little things keep you going. This is the case, says Nancy Upton an assistant professor who had joined Northeastern University in 2007, when there is a crisis situation. While people understand that they have to cut short on large financial expenditures, being a stressful time also necessitates a channel to dispense off the stress. Cosmetics is a popular one in this area.


When there have been situations of economic strain on the people, Upton notes, people turn to things like lipsticks and takeout food to enhance their moods. An expert in consumer behaviour, she says that this was the case even during the Great Depression. Buying small things like a lipstick can be justified to themselves and their families, even when the times are financially difficult, because this is not a huge economic investment. She also notes that during recession, there is a higher sale of kitchen goods and other home related things because people tend to spend more time at home during this period.


Upton has a doctoral degree from Harvard and has authored multiple research papers on mood and consumer behaviour. According to her, these mood-driven purchases by customers are not always made in a rational or intuitive manner. There are also the wealthier consumers who tend to spend during these times, keeping the sales of shops same, because even though there maybe lesser customers, the ones who are buying are buying more.


If COVID-19 will prove to produce another ‘Lipstick Effect’, only time can tell. While it is true that every penny counts in this situation, if small purchases like lipsticks and other cosmetics can help improve the moods and overall mental health of the people, this may not be a heavy price to pay, especially considering how there has been a steep deterioration in the mental and emotional well-being of individuals following the lockdown and corona pandemic situation.


N Malavika Mohan