Nail Polish Sales Hit Record $768 Million in U.S.

Purchases grew in 2012 despite an overcrowded market

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From magnetic polishes and subscription services to Shellac manicures and at-home gel sets, the nail care industry has been one of beauty’s fastest-growing sectors in recent years. WWD reports nail polish sales hit a record $768 million in the U.S. in 2012, a 32% gain over 2011, despite a cluttered market that seemingly sees a new launch each week.

Like lipstick, nail polish is often considered an economic indicator. “A rise in nail polish sales indicates that we’re searching for bargain luxuries as the economy craters,” wrote Adam Davidson, co-founder of NRP’s Planet Money, in the New York Times in 2011. That theory would seem to prove true of last year’s boom, too: decorative treatments, including patterned nail stickers and textured polishes, were among the most popular emerging trends. Gel products, which saw a growth spike during the holiday season, are also on the rise.

Elsewhere, social media is also giving the sector a boom. Lori Silverstein, chief beauty officer for Peninsula Beauty, attributed the company’s 30% growth to apps like Instagram, which allows users to share pictures of (and perhaps create buzz about) their nail art. In September, E! Online even introduced a “Mani Cam” at the 2012 Emmy Awards, inviting celebrities to walk their fingers down a red carpet for a close-up view of their manicures. The gimmick was panned at the time, but in light of the industry’s latest sales figures, Mani Cams may only be the beginning.

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