Health and beauty retailers are likely to enjoy their best growth in a decade this year, despite the wider consumer slowdown.

More male shoppers, price inflation and health and beauty stores’ perennial appeal to women will enable the sector to outperform the retail market, as it has done every year since 2003.

Consumers spent£15.6 billion on health and beauty products in 2007 – a 4.7 per cent rise, according to Verdict’s UK Health and Beauty Retailers 2008 report.

Speciality retailers such as Space NK, Lush and Molton Brown are all growing, but the big four grocers have also made gains and account for 40.6 per cent of the market or£6.3 billion, between them.

Tesco increased its market share by 0.3 percentage points to 18.3 per cent last year. Only market leader Alliance Boots, which controls 25.9 per cent of the market, is bigger.

Verdict analyst Carol Ratcliffe said: “In uncertain times, people are still willing to spend money on making themselves look and feel good.

“If you’re holding back from buying expensive items, there is more scope for smaller indulgences. Health and beauty products are ideal for this – it doesn’t cost much to treat yourself and even the premium brands are relatively accessible.”

One of the biggest drivers of growth has been men’s toiletries, which Verdict forecasts to rise by 7.7 per cent this year.