Finance in 2022 – inflation, inflation, inflation

Finance in 2022 – inflation, inflation, inflation

FIRST HALF Whether as a result of the pandemic, supply shortages or price gouging, inflation started rising worldwide in mid 2021 and was only exacerbated at the start of 2022 as Russia invaded Ukraine, sending fuel prices soaring. However, while ‘headwinds’ were mentioned in several forecasts, sales growth continued on an upward trajectory in the first half for many, boosted by the end of pandemic-related restrictions and the resumption of travel. LVMH, for example, reported record first half revenue of €36.7 billion, despite the ongoing Chinese lockdowns. L’Oréal’s CEO, Nicolas Hieronimus even went as far as to claim that inflation wasn’t affecting its sales at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May.

But, if we had to choose one word to define finance in the first half of 2022, it was caution. With the money markets in turmoil, mergers and acquisitions were all but on hold with major deals stalled indefinitely, it appeared. Walgreens Boots Alliance failed to find a buyer for its Boots chain. And while rumors swirled around various companies – Revlon, Tom Ford and Kohl’s, for example, not many deals were done.

SECOND HALF The M&A market started to pick up in the second half, however, with ELC snapping up Balmain, L’Oréal scoring Skinbetter Science. AmorePacific purchasing Tata Harper, which all goes to show, there is money out there, it’s just a question of persuading people to part with it.

And on that note, the finance world is still very much backing eco brands. BYBI secured £1.9 million funding to help it become world’s first carbon-negative beauty brand, Evolved by Nature raised US$120 million and sustainable oral health brand, Better & Better procured US$4 million to accelerate its expansion plans.   

However, with energy prices spiralling and record interest rate hikes, consumers were certainly feeling the pinch in Q3 – indeed, the contrast between Q1 results and Q3 was stark. L’Oréal may have reported 12 percent sales growth but the era of fast-paced growth appeared to be over for its luxury division as Consumer Products put on 10 percent like-for-like, while Luxe gained a more modest 6 percent. Coty witnessed the same phenomenon, with its mass market division jumping 12 percent yoy while luxury rose 7 percent.  No wonder prestige specialist The Estee Lauder Companies cut its full-year forecast as sales declined 11 percent, although LVMH said that demand remained resilient.

The mass market, on the other hand, enjoyed something of a renaissance, with Elf Beauty raising its outlook after racking up a 33 percent increase in sales and Unilever’s price hikes delivering double digit growth. Worth noting that not all mass brands were born equal, and The Body Shop and Revlon continued to struggle.

WHAT’S NEXT? While the cost-of-living crisis has prompted a lot of doom and gloom this year, it’s not all bad news on the finance front. While the all-important holiday season may prove make or break for many, beauty has proved pretty resilient in the face of runaway inflation. There’s even been signs of hope for 2023 in the form of slowing inflation in the US and Spain, while China’s decision to lift its zero Covid policy could revive one of beauty’s key markets. That said, the impact of rising energy prices, food costs and mortgage rate rises is not to be underestimated and may dampen demand for luxury products and travel in the west into 2023.