When times get tough, American women buy nail polish.
For the first 10 months of 2011, sales of nail polish and products were up 59 percent from the same period in 2010, according to market research firm NPD Group, which also showed sales have grown since the onset of the economic downturn.
"Nail colour is an affordable indulgence," said Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst at NPD. "It's an easy way to be on-trend and to make a statement."
Although NPD's research focused on department stores, Grant said the trend extends to the mass market as well.
Demitrius Simpkins, manager of New York salon Lali Lali in New York, agreed.
"Beauty is one thing women never forget about," he said. "Manicures are a way to lift spirits."
NPD's research showed that both coloured nail polish and base coats were selling well, which suggests that more women may be skipping the salon manicures and doing their own nails.
Simpkins said that although the salon's nail services are popular, he has noticed some customers are looking for ways to save money and opting for long-lasting gel manicures to reduce salon visits.
"Some women who used to come every Monday now come maybe every other Monday," he said.
Grant and Simpkins also think women are aiming for value.
"A bottle of nail polish can last a month or two at least," said Grant. "If you go out to dinner, you only get one night."
Grant also noted the capacity for growth in the nail cosmetics market, which she said is larger than for other colour cosmetics.
In 2001, when lipstick sales shot up former Estee Lauder chairman Leonard Lauder coined the term "lipstick index" to describe the increase in demand for lipstick after the late 1990s tech bubble burst.
"The size of the market is burgeoning, and there's a huge opportunity for doubling or even tripling growth," Grant said of nail cosmetics. "It's like lipstick 10 years ago."