Friday, 3 June 2011

An interview with… Imogen Matthews, Owner of IM Associates

"I publish the report each year after conducting extensive interviews with manufacturers, retailers & industry experts"

Years in beauty industry: 32

Specialising in market research and trade journalism, Imogen Matthews knows more than a thing or two about the beauty industry; both present and future. Imogen talks to Your Beauty Industry about the need for up-to-date market research, current beauty trends and how to work and succeed as a market researcher.

Tell me a bit about your career background.
My whole career has centred around beauty, starting with an internship in the market research department of Avon. That gave me the springboard into the leading market research company for cosmetics & toiletries.

My lucky break came after just a year when my then boss left to set up a competitive agency specialising in accurate, in-depth market data. There were just three of us at the start at SDC {Syndicated Data Consultants}, and I was thrown in the deep end with responsibility for putting together my own presentations and standing in front of senior executives in high profile companies, such as Boots, P&G and Chanel. It was hugely nerve-wracking but a fantastic learning curve that gave me the confidence to become a respected expert in my field.

After SDC was sold to AC Nielsen, I decided corporate life wasn’t for me. I had two very young sons and saw an opportunity to work for myself as an independent market researcher and beauty trade journalist. That was in 1990 and since then I have written for all the major UK trade journals, including Esprit, SPC and ECM, as well as many international ones, such as Cosmetics International and Cosmetic News Weekly.

I wrote Mintel’s cosmetic, fragrance and toiletries reports for many years, and more recently have begun to build YouGov SixthSense’s portfolio of in-depth consumer insight reports on the UK beauty industry. By having these two arms to my business, I have built a tremendous body of knowledge which has helped in the development of my own Premium Market Report.

Tell me about the annual Premium Market Report that you produce.
I was approached in 1993 by two former clients of mine when I was Client Services Director at SDC, who were missing the expert analysis and accuracy of data and information I used to supply. It gave me the idea of producing my own independent report which tracks the UK premium cosmetics, skincare and fragrance markets.

I publish the report each year in March, after conducting extensive interviews with manufacturers, retailers and industry experts. The report is bang up to date, covering market, retailer and consumer trends plus analysis of what is happening right now and likely to happen in the coming year.

In the past couple of years, I have forged partnerships with leading market researchers to strengthen and deepen the quality of the information. YouGov SixthSense run valuable consumer insight questions so that I can gain a better understanding of men’s and women’s motivations when choosing and buying premium beauty products. provides the latest trend information for advertising and promotions within the premium beauty industry.

What role do you think market reports provide for the beauty industry, and how should companies be using them?
Keeping up to date with trends in a fast-moving industry such as beauty is a real challenge for product developers, marketers and formulators. Many of the reports out there are updated infrequently which means you can be reading about trends that happened two years ago. That’s no good if you want to know about the sudden explosion of growth-enhancing mascaras, for example. The Premium Market Report is updated every year, making it easier to keep abreast of trends as they happen and act on them. Bite-sized information is a feature of the report, enabling the user to dip in, learn and use.

"Make-up services are playing a bigger role in retailing, with growth in brow & lash bars, nail spas and make-up lessons"

Can you give me some topline findings from your most recent report, which you think is shaping the beauty industry?

Some top-line findings from the 2010/11 Premium Market Report include:

  • The premium beauty markets have bounced back following the recent recession: the majority of consumers interviewed are no longer cutting back on their purchases.
  • Make-up services are playing a bigger role in retailing, with growth in brow & lash bars, nail spas and make-up lessons.
  • Anti-ageing is the number one claim consumers look for in skincare, regardless of whether they are in their 20s or 60s.
  • The number of celebrity fragrance launches has slowed significantly in the past two years. 
  • A new crop of celebrity fashion designer fragrances is gaining prominence at a time that the celebrity trend is showing signs of running out of steam. Examples: Orla Kiely launched her first signature fragrance in 2010; celebrity shoe designer Jimmy Choo launched its first fragrance in January 2011. 
  • One in two women interviewed said they would never buy a fragrance without trying it first.

How do you think the beauty industry has changed over the last 5 years?
The biggest change the industry has seen has been the sheer volume of new product launches in virtually every sector. Hardly a week goes by when there aren’t at least several new product introductions. The media loves to have something new to talk about, but I’m not so sure this is such good news for the industry. By continually bringing out new products, companies run the risk of confusing and potentially alienating loyal customers.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants a career in market research?
You don’t need to have a qualification in market research to be a good market researcher! You must have an enquiring mind and an ability to write well and succinctly. You also need to have tremendous discipline and perseverance to be able to complete a lengthy market research report, which can run to 25,000 plus words –not unlike writing a novel! It’s no coincidence that many of the best researchers have a background in journalism.

Who inspires you?
I’m on the Board of CEW UK and am continually in awe of the fantastic achievements of so many women in our industry. I’ve been fortunate to mix with top executives both on the Board and at CEW’s many industry events which is a constant source of inspiration and networking opportunities. I thoroughly recommend joining CEW UK to any woman serious about working in the beauty industry.

"Build a portfolio of clients so if you are unlucky enough to lose one or more, you will always have others to cushion the blow"
What’s the best career advice you have received?
Soon after I began working for myself I attended a conference for freelancers where I learnt the importance of building a portfolio of clients. So if you are unlucky enough to lose one or more, you will always have others to cushion the blow. It also means that I am constantly reviewing my client portfolio making me aware of when gaps occur so I can take action. This approach has worked well for me through two recessions!



  1. Thank you for creating this wonderful blog. I am hoping to one day develop my own organic cosmetics so this blog is really inspirational.

    I wish you all the luck in the world with your blog (although I am sure you don't need it).

    All the best,

  2. Such a lovely comment to receive, thank you Voe. I write my blog with people like you in mind, so I am so glad to have inspired you. Good luck with your venture - don't be afraid, just do it! :o)

  3. 32 years is a long time, I'm sure she's seen tons of things during her career