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Associated Press
“It’s amazing to see the relationship between women here and their hair,” said Blaise Didillon of L’Oreal Brazil. “It’s not like that in France.”

Brazil is ‘fashion-forward’

Booming beauty market draws salons, investors

– Looking good has always been serious business in Brazil. Now it’s big business, too.

A flush new middle class and a population strong on working adults is dropping major cash on designer shampoos, lotions and cosmetics, rapidly turning this country into a beauty industry powerhouse.

Sales of beauty products in Brazil hit $43 billion in 2011, a growth of 142 percent in five years that puts it on a pace to overtake Japan as the world’s second-largest beauty market within a few years, according to Euromonitor, a global market research company. At the same time, Japan’s beauty market grew by 40 percent and the United States’ by 7.3 percent.

This growth is fed by consumers just like seamstress Cidalia Maria de Almeida. On a quick lunch-break visit to a hair products store, she scanned rows of bottles and jars that promised to give her springy curls more shine, bounce, volume or freedom from frizz. She finally plunked two deep-conditioning hair masks into her basket.

She’s struggled to make rent in the past, but now has more work than she can handle. The bit of extra cash, she said, she spends on herself.

“I can afford a little luxury every once in a while, a little something to make myself look good,” she said. “I can try something new, like this, just because I want to see if it works.”

The fastest-growing segments of the market saw eye-popping jumps in sales between 2006 and 2011: Depilatories went up by 299 percent, cosmetics by 281 percent and sun care by 230 percent. Consumers such as Almeida are buying more of what they’ve always purchased, then are reaching back to the shelves, hungry for novelty.

“The potential in Brazil is really significant. The demand is high and continuing to grow,” said Hana Ben-Shabat, a partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm. “It’s incredible because the consumption per capita is very close to what you’re seeing in places like America and the UK. The population is very fashion-forward.”

Companies are responding. Sephora, owned by LVMH, the world’s leading luxury products group, opened its first store in Brazil in July, and while the company can’t give numbers, it was the most successful store opening in the company’s history, said Paula Larroque, senior vice president for Latin America.

“Brazilians are truly beauty junkies,” she said. “We really see limitless potential.”

The success has spawned four other stores, and the company plans 30 to 35 more within four years, according to Larroque.

L’Oreal is already the world leader in beauty, topping international heavyweights such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Estee Lauder, and investing in Brazil is essential to staying on top, said Blaise Didillon, head of research and innovation for L’Oreal Brazil.

He said per capita spending on beauty and personal care products is around $260 a year in Brazil, and that is leading companies to invest heavily in understanding Brazilian needs.

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