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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cosmetics Dazzle as Men Shop to Impress

For many millions of Russians, this time of year can be a minefield of potential disappointment, stress and shopping.

If the imported Valentine's Day was just a warm-up, then the International Women's Day holiday Thursday is the main event, sending men across the country scrambling for floral and other presents in a frenzy of unoriginality.

Spelling temporary hardship for some, however, this double-whammy of holiday hassle signals a seasonal boom time for the country's $9 billion dollar cosmetics industry, as gifts are bought for mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters and colleagues.

"Basically the biggest increases are in fine fragrances, and all of the other beauty products see a rise as well," said Irina Nagornova, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, the biggest player on the country's cosmetics market.

The majority of the company's special promotions are focused on this holiday period, she said.

"It's a very highly seasonal business, as in many countries in the world," said Natalya Zagvozdina, a retail analyst at Renaissance Capital.

"The end of the first quarter is usually quite high," she said.

"It is understandable that there are certain products that people buy as gifts on these holidays, and if there is a selection of those, then that is great," Sergei Kazantsev, a spokesman for the biggest Russian cosmetics producer, Kalina, said from the company's Yekaterinburg headquarters.

In an outlet of Russian-owned cosmetics store Isle de Beaute, in the Yevropeisky shopping mall by Kievsky Station on Monday evening, Irina, a shop assistant, rolled her eyes.

"Yes there are more men than usual, as it's nearly March 8," she said. "And yes, they do often need help."

Roman, 22, a trainee dentist, was scratching his head in front of gift packs of soaps in the neighboring Douglas cosmetics store.

"I was going to buy some perfume for my mom but then I decided that there was no point. It would only be left in the bathroom and used occasionally as an air freshener," he said.

"I thought I'd spend about 1,500 rubles ($57) but I've just noticed these for 300 rubles, so maybe I won't," he said, laughing.

Across town in the perfume section of the monster 24-hour Arbat Prestizh store by Kursky Station, communications manager Alexander, 31, was treating his shopping trip for his wife's present like a military campaign.

"No, it's not difficult. I'm doing a tour of all the perfumes one by one. You have to do it systematically," he said, clutching a pen that he used to jot down notes.

"I put all the test sticks that I like in my pocket then go outside, have a cigarette, smell them again and then decide," he said.

Some shoppers were less than eager to reveal whom they were buying presents for. Boris, 50, a bearded, burly man, winked knowingly as he refused to say whom he would be treating this Women's Day, and walked away.

Although the main market growth comes from men buying presents, Nagornova at Procter & Gamble, which produces brands like Pantene, Olay and Gillette, said women like to splash out as spring approaches.

"Of course more women will receive gifts on these holidays, but many women go out and buy gifts for themselves, pamper themselves," she said.

The seasonal boom should provide some solace for cosmetic manufacturers, who were caught up in a major bout of chaos last year when the government initially insisted that all cosmetic products containing alcohol be registered with a state database intended to stamp out illegal moonshine.

As numerous manufacturers struggled with the new EGAIS system, the country's Perfumery and Cosmetics Association estimated the industry had lost over $500 million in revenue from June to November, International Cosmetic News reported. Lawmakers eventually ruled in December that perfumes should be exempted from the system.

Russian cosmetics firms have yet to release results for 2006.

According to figures from investment bank Troika Dialog, the country's cosmetics market is now worth more than $9 billion per year.

Since four years ago, when the market was growing at 30 percent to 40 percent annually, growth has slowed but still remains impressive.

"Basically the market is not growing very fast any longer. For the last few years, it has still been growing faster than in Western Europe, where there is stagnation in consumer markets. In Russia it is still growing, but we wouldn't call it record growth," P & G's Nagornova said.

"Overall, we expect the market to grow from 2006 to 2010 by 14 percent to 16 percent per year," said Mikhail Terentyev, a retail analyst at Troika Dialog.

Terentyev explained, however, that talking of overall trends in the market was difficult, as the progress of numerous sub-sectors varied.

"Growth rates are very uneven across the market sectors," he said.

RenCap's Zagvozdina highlighted the particular importance of the bellwether make-up sector.

"In Russia, the color cosmetics part of the business, make-up, is one of the most interesting markets globally because Russian women wear more make-up products than their West European counterparts," she said.

"If we talk about the Russian cosmetic and toiletries market, then it is definitely changing its profile from low-priced mass-market products to being more sophisticated," she said.

Talk of the biggest foreign players on the market -- P & G, L'Oreal and Schwarzkopf & Henkel -- squeezing out their Russian competitors is exaggerated, Troika's Terentyev said.

Foreign and Russian firms "work in different niches, with foreign players specializing in premium products and selling their products primarily in Moscow and St. Petersburg, while local players enjoy high consumer loyalty and high brand awareness in the regions," he said.

Terentyev said certain sectors were dominated by the multinationals, however.

"In fragrances, this segment is noticeable for the degree of domination by foreign companies. It's not a niche where local players operate," Terentyev said.

One twist is that, given the growth in the sales of male grooming products, many of the men wandering in cosmetics stories this week may be buying presents in return for ones they received Feb. 23, the Defenders of the Fatherland Day.

"Male consumption of beauty products is growing across all categories. Not in absolute terms but certainly relatively," P & G's Nagornova said.