LONDON: The pursuit of beauty is a high priority for British consumers who reportedly spend more than any of their European neighbours on lotions and potions to stay feeling and looking lovely.

A new survey - European Health & Beauty Retailers 2008 - by Verdict Research reveals the average UK consumer spends €375 ($556; £299) per year on health and beauty products, well ahead of the French, who are next biggest spenders at €327.

The Italians follow at €305; in fourth spot is Germany (€289); then the Netherlands (€280); the Spanish are in sixth place with a very modest €254 yearly spend.

Notes Verdict retail analyst Carol Ratcliffe: "The British are certainly happy to splash out on looking good."

UK consumers, says the survey, like innovative and upmarket goods. In addition, they are happy to pay higher prices for premium items to which they have easy access.

The fastest expanding markets, Verdict reports, are Romania, Estonia and Latvia, which have seen growth rise between 2002-2007 by 79.3%, 64.9% and 62.6% respectively.

Verdict also identifies German retailers as dominant in the health and beauty market, taking four out of six places. However, the table is led by Hong Kong-based AS Watson which had 5.3% of market share in the EU last year.

Data sourced from Verdict Research; additional content by WARC staff