Gifts with purchase, the scourge of the beauty industry, are alive and well this holiday season. In fact, GWPs are over the top, demonstrating a sense of desperation among some retailers who are worried that inflation and recession fears will put a damper on consumer spending.

“FREE gifts with purchase – up to $172 value,” screamed an email from Nordstrom. “Score can’t-miss gifts from La Mer, Clé de Peau Beauté and more top brands. Hurry, quantities are limited!” There are 80-plus different gifts with purchase, the ad goes on to say. There’s even photos of the featured GWP, Aerin Beauty’s deluxe samples of Aerin Body Rose Hand & Body Cream and Rose Lip Conditioner, with any Aerin purchase online.

There are other gifts highlighted. For example, Cartier’s deluxe samples of Pasha de Cartier Noir Eau de Toilette and Pasha Edition Noir Eau de Parfum, which come together in a travel pouch, with a $245 Cartier men’s fragrance purchase. There’s also a $60 Bonus Note offer for Estée Lauder products and a GWP of a full-size Re-Nutriv Ultimate Diamond Transformative Energy Moisturizer Cream Rich with a $150 Estée Lauder purchase. The list goes on and on.

Bloomingdale’s is offering GWPs on single beauty items, such as Valentino’s Eye2Cheek Blush and Eyeshadow, $58, and Gucci Beauty’s Vernis à Ongles nail polish, $33. What the actual GWPs entail is not spelled out by Bloomingdale’s, but there are dozens of eligible products, including Dior’s Diorshow Pump ’N’ Volume mascara, $29.50.

La Mer, the treatment brand, sells for $100 to $2,545 at Bloomingdale’s. And yet, it comes with a GWP, a deluxe sample of the Moisturizing Soft Cream in a .24-ounce size. If you’re wondering why a consumer who can afford to pay $2,545 for a face cream would hold out for a GWP, you simply don’t know human nature.

In fragrances, several brands appear to opt out of the requisite GWP at Nordstrom. For example, Chanel, whose ready-to-wear handbags and accessories rarely go on sale, offers no GWPs at Nordstrom for Chanel Chance Eau Tendre Eau de Toilette, $95 to $150. Ditto Chanel Gabrielle Chanel Essence Eau de Parfum, $116 to $183. The same goes for Chanel Essence Eau de Parfum spray, Chanel Chance Eau de Parfum spray, Chanel Chance Eau Tendre Eau de Parfum spray, and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Toilette spray.

The beauty industry has been trying for decades to extricate itself from the gift-with-purchase go-rama, which has trained consumers to wait for the GWPs before buying a full-size product and paying full price. Customers have been conditioned to expect the little somethings-for-nothing, which the beauty industry has bestowed on them for more than three decades.

Like any perk that’s removed after some time, consumers rebelled against efforts by beauty companies to get rid of GWPs.

Marigay McKee, General Partner and co-founder of Fernbrook Capital Management LLC, and former president of Saks Fifth Avenue, was previously a beauty executive at Estée Lauder Europe, who rose to the post of Chief Merchandise Officer at Harrods in her native England, after holding positions of Beauty Director and Fashion Director.

She said that most of the retailers she’s worked with were interested in “creating a positioning  platform for growth and building a lifestyle stable of luxury fragrances” so they don’t discount them.

“Everybody is interested in building more of a luxury strategy for fragrance that has longevity, creativity and desirability in the asset,” said McKee. “Brands are very interested in building families of luxury fragrances, like Jo Malone, Tom Ford, Dior, Chanel and others.”

“As we’re in uncertain times, different companies have formulated different strategies,” McKee continued. “Chanel now gives you these chic little boxes with mini scents or skin care, which still evolve the luxury relationship with the customer.”

“The luxe brands will give you mini samples as a value-add without the need to reduce the ticket price, which is more of a mass strategy,” McKee added. “At the end of the day, you’re not generally discounting the luxury brands, whatever the climate. This increases brand loyalty, trust and positioning at the top.”

My Exclusive Loyalty Program sells actual beauty gifts with purchase, no full-price purchase required. There’s no clue as to how the company gets them. The Dior Addict Natural Glow makeup set, consisting of lip balm, plumping lip serum, and gloss, is $58, or four interest-free  payments of $14.50 each with Klarna. “Been wanting to try out this popular lip balm and this set is the best bang for the buck,” said Agnes from New York on the website.


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