A potential economic indicator lies just behind the cosmetics counter at many department stores: lipstick.
Many signs point to an economy on the downhill slide, but in recent months, lipstick sales nationwide have been increasing. And after Sept. 11, leading lipstick maker Estée Lauder announced its lipstick sales doubled. In recent weeks, many national reports have shown that trend is happening again.
The allure of these cosmetics is more than skin deep. In fact, this phenomenon was originally noted by Estée Lauder Cos. chairman Leonard Lauder, who proposed the idea that lipstick sales may indicate the direction of the economy.
Local makeup counters, however, refused to comment on their recent sales trends.
Kelly Manley, an assistant professor of economics at Gainesville State College's Oconee campus, said the trend of lipstick sales rising while the economy is receding is a historical pattern.
"If you're a woman and you have to tighten the budget, you're not going to buy Coach handbags," said Manley.
However, "buying lipstick is a small, affordable way to indulge."
Marla Shavin, a public relations manager with Macy's in Atlanta, said buying lipstick is a mood and style booster for customers.
"When a customer comes in, they want ... to go home with something affordable and fun that will punch up a wardrobe," Shavin said.
Shavin said "multi-tasking lipsticks," which pack multiple effects into one tube, are popular right now. And many department stores offer samples, so customers can try a few styles before making that small but luxurious purchase.
"It's more than a tube of lipstick, it's a beauty treatment," Shavin said.