By  on March 5, 2012

MILAN — From March 9 to 12, the Cosmoprof beauty and trade fair in Bologna, Italy, is attempting to lure more foreign exhibitors with the promise of beefed up presentations, sustainable initiatives and a renewed emphasis on how cosmetics improve quality of life.

“Our mission is to support Italy’s extraordinary industry,” said Duccio Campagnoli, president of BolognaFiere and SoGeCos, at a press presentation on March 2. Despite Europe’s economic woes, Campagnoli said, the Italian cosmetics sector is doing better than many had feared: In 2011, the industry grew by a percentage point. Rising exports to Germany, France, the U.S., Spain, Russia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Poland kept the sector in good shape, with an overall 14 percent increase in Italian cosmetic exports over 2010.

At this year’s fair, foreigners are expected to again make a strong showing, with new stands from Mexico, California and Brazil, which Campagnoli highlighted as a significant emerging market.

“We have a responsibility that I would summarize as ‘even more.’ We think we need to be even more of a fair, even more of an international platform and even more of a support to our incredible Made in Italy,” he said.

Fabio Rossello, president of Unipro, the Italian association of cosmetics companies, emphasized the social role of cosmetics: “We would all live less well without cosmetics,” he said, noting that even in a tough economy, people continue to purchase beauty products to feel good about themselves.

Rossello also said Italy’s increase in cosmetic exports was indicative of the sector’s positioning alongside fashion, design and wine in the minds of foreign consumers. Two of the fastest-growing export markets for Italian cosmetics are Hong Kong — the “lion’s share,” up by 29.3 percent in the past year — and the United Arab Emirates, up by 28.6 percent.

In Italy, where cosmetic consumption is above the European average, consumers continue to gravitate toward pharmacies, perfumeries and small businesses to buy cosmetics, because they like one-on-one consultations and trust the expertise of pharmacists, according to Rossello. “Italy’s small- and medium-size businesses are still at the base of our capitalism, of the wealth of our country,” he said.

“Men are also increasingly using cosmetics,” he added, observing that young men in the 25-to-35 age bracket are the most likely male consumers.

Herbal medicine stores were slightly on the rise in 2011, thanks to consumer interest in natural, organic products. Rossello said in response, sustainability would be a major focus at Cosmoprof this year: A conference on “Innovation Through Sustainability” is scheduled for the fair’s opening day, and another, “Organic Cosmetics: Trends by Geographical Area and Product Innovation,” is slated for Saturday.

Roberto Valente, sales director of SoGeCos, said each year the fair strives to “enrich” itself with new events and stands. He cited the new Extraordinary Gallery by Cosmoff Lab, put on in collaboration with Gabriella Giamminola, as a highlight of Cosmoprof’s 2012 edition. The display mixes home design and catering with jewelry, clothes and cosmetics, and visitors will be able to make purchases on site.

“We wanted to send a positive signal, we wanted to say ‘vive la vie,’ ” Valente said, emphasizing the connection between cosmetics and all the things that make life more beautiful, from art and fashion to jewelry. “It’s about luxury that allows us to live well.”

The Accademia del Profumo, which each year holds an awards ceremony for best fragrance, will feature a cocktail party and special show in lieu of a dinner, Rossello said. From March 7 onward the academy will host installations in Piazza Maggiore and Piazza della Costituzione with assorted information about the competition’s fragrance finalists, and will show films dedicated to the world of perfume in Palazzo dei Notai.

Other key events from this year’s fair include Friday’s “Roadmap to Build a Successful Business in the U.S.,” Saturday’s Elle Beauty Awards at Palazzo Pepoli, where brands are elected for prizes by magazine readers, and a new conference on “Pro-Aging,” which Valente said focuses on developing beauty products that don’t “fight the passing of years” but instead “accompany” consumers along the aging process in a healthy way.

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