The report on European beauty buying habits throws doubt on the commonly held belief that Italian and French women are more preoccupied by their looks than their British cousins.
British and beautiful
The study indicates that British consumers spend 43 per cent more on beauty and health than the average European.
The average UK consumer spends around €375 a year compared with French and Italians who spend €327 and €305 respectively and follow on in second and third place in the league table of top European spenders.
Verdict Research attributed the top UK position to easy access to products and a strong appetite for innovation and premium brands.
“The British are certainly happy to splash out on looking good,” said Carol Ratcliffe, Verdict Research retail analyst and report co-author. “We spend almost 50 per cent more each year than the Spanish for example.”
Spanish and Eastern European growth
Although Spain trails a long way behind the UK with an average annual spend of only €254, it is the fastest growing of all the major EU markets.
Between 2002 and 2007, the size of the Spanish health and beauty market increased by almost a third.
Verdict Research pointed to Eastern Europe as the other engine for health and beauty growth in Europe.
Romania, Estonia and Latvia are the fastest growing markets in Europe, according to Verdict, although the speed of their development in recent years reflects their modest starting points.
Germany dominates in retail
Looking at the retail landscape in Europe, of the leading beauty and health retailers four of the top six are German companies.
Verdict Research said the favorable central location of the country went some way to explain the German dominance.
Meanwhile, UK specialists struggle abroad despite the strength of the domestic market because they are often pharmacy-focused and therefore face tough regulations on pharmacy ownerships in continental Europe.
Nottingham-based Alliance Boots is nonetheless the second largest health and beauty retailer in Europe although Verdict Research said the company is planning to relocate its headquarters to Switzerland.
The largest and also one of the fastest growing retailers in Europe is AS Watson, which has increased its market share in the EU from 1.2 per cent in 2002 to 5.3 per cent last year. It has achieved this through a series of acquisitions and now has 10 chains in the EU including Marionnaud, Superdrug and The Perfume Shop.