Beauty Phenomenon: Seasonal Sales on Cosmetics in the UK

by PJ on Thursday, January 17, 2008

in makeup,skincare,What do you think? Beauty topics and thoughts

(sales ad from Selfridges & Co.)

(image from

I was surprised when I went to my first seasonal sale in London years ago (at the start of the winter sale on December 27th). In the most high-end department stores, a lot of limited-edition beauty items from a couple of seasons ago had a mark-down between 30 to 50 percent. I didn’t expect to see them, but then they were back and stacked up at the edge of the counter.

I soon realized that, during seasonal sales in the UK, cosmetics items are reduced just like clothes are.

There are mostly 4 types of beauty products that are marked down in UK seasonal sales:

1. Seasonal gift sets, especially fragrance sets. (Christmas fragrance sets usually have a 30% mark-down right after Christmas. Many people stock up their favorite fragrances at this time of year.)

2. Limited-edition makeup items. Dior, YSL and Guerlain do this the most, among many other (mostly French) brands.

3. Discontinued and soon-to-be discontinued products. If I see a couple of products from a brand’s current lineup being reduced massively (sometimes up to 50%), I know they are going to be discontinued very soon. (Or, if I know something is going to be discontinued or replaced, I’d expect it to be on sale.)

4. Surplus stock of makeup shades that are less popular.

So here are just some of the things I saw this time:

— Guerlain’s Pucci collection (limited-edition, summer 2007), 50% off
— Guerlain’s 4-color eyeshadow palettes, 50% off (the new range has replaced these).
— YSL Palette Esprit Couture (limited-edition, fall 2007), 30% off
— YSL limited-edition items for summer 2007 and holiday 2006, 50% off
— Dior Diorissime palettes (limited-edition, fall 2007), 30% off
— Various Dior eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks, 30% off
— Paul & Joe’s discontinued base makeup items (change of packaging and formulation in summer 2007) and the full nail color line (soon to be replaced by a new nail color range), 50% off.

For the first time, I saw fall limited-edition makeup items, such as Diorissime palettes, reduced right after Christmas in the same year. But, with spring collections out earlier and earlier, maybe it is not all that surprising.

I have always been in two minds about all the clearing out. Of course it is nice to buy things at reduced prices. I have bought some lovely Paul & Joe items during the sale for very affordable prices.

However, even though high-end brands have a certain image and cache that they try hard to maintain, some of them still haphazardly stack up discounted palettes at the counter. Lip glosses are bundled up in rubber bands and put in plastic boxes. I can’t help but feel that this is rather unsightly and that the only thing they aim for during the sale is to get some stock space back. It doesn’t really reflect elegance and sophistication.

(True to its Japanese roots, Paul & Joe’s attention to detail during the sale stands out. In Fenwick on Bond Street, Paul & Joe’s reduced items are usually lined up neatly on a small and simple round table next to the counter. No plastic boxes or rubber bands…)

As I understand, there are clear-outs like this in the US for brands that are going to be discontinued. But it appears to me that seasonal limited-edition makeup items from high-end brands are not usually marked down regularly like they are here in the UK.

In some other countries (as well as in the US), I am aware that there are similar seasonal beauty clear-outs, but they are done in companies’ warehouses or headquarters. These events can be slightly more exclusive in terms of how they publicize the event information.

Are cosmetics items reduced regularly like this in your country? Let us know!

Voice more of your opinion on:

Can I return this, please?
(Can you?)

You Mean It’s Not Real?
(Are there problems with mascara ads?)

Japanese vs. Western
(Which side are you on?)