NEW YORK -- The sun may be rising on a new era in the Japanese beauty business.
While Japan has historically been a tough market to crack for foreign cosmetics companies, some American executives say that consumer attitudes may be changing. The younger generation in Japan is developing different shopping habits and ideas of individuality than the older, more conservative generation, and this evolution could lead to great opportunities for foreign cosmetics companies, according to industry executives.
"There seems to be a greater gap between generations than ever before," said Patrick Waterfield, president of chief executive officer of Guerlain Inc. "The one coming up now seems to be very different."
Waterfield, who has been with Guerlain for 25 years, spent 15 years overseeing the company's Asia-Pacific region, based in Hong Kong. During his tenure he lived for six years in Japan.
"We've always addressed the older generation, which is more traditional and comfortable in its habits," he said. "We were perceived to be the highest-priced treatment line in Japan. But when we eventually lowered our prices in response to pressure from the government, it paid off. It brought us down to a level that's very competitive with Shiseido and the main Japanese brands, and this made us more appealing to the younger generation.
The Asia-Pacific region now does about 16 percent of Guerlain's worldwide volume, or over $55 million. Under 5 percent is generated by fragrance.
"Everyone is trying to appeal to the younger generation," Waterfield continued. "The situation is much like here in the U.S., in that the youth are not as brand oriented, they've traveled a lot and seen foreign brands and they're questioning traditional values."
Waterfield said it remained to be seen whether young Japanese consumers will truly break away from the habits of the past.
"The law that determines Japanese buying habits is the mother-in-law," he said. "Young married couples often start out living with the husband's mother, and she doesn't want the wife to wear perfume. It's not acceptable. But while the youth is respectful of elders, it's becoming a question of individuality versus conformity. They've never sought out a perfume that fits their individual personality, as happens in the West."Jeanette Wagner, president of Estee Lauder International, agreed that a significant generation gap exists in Japan, although she thought a real chasm has not developed.
"Younger consumers are definitely different, although they're not changing as fast as we'd like them to," she said. "But there are signs. For one thing, young women who are traveling outside of Japan are more accepting of fragrance."
Wagner noted that when Aramis's Tuscany Per Donna was launched in Japan, what was intended to be six months worth of product sold out in 2 weeks.
"Interest in skin care is growing as well," she said. "Japan is very new driven and technology driven. We've also been seeing growth with color products that have treatment benefits.
Both executives stressed the importance of adapting products and sales techniques to the Japanese market.
"People and quality are the key ingredients," Wagner said. "The Japanese have the highest sensitivity to quality in the world.
"The right people are also essential because you need to use a soft-sell approach," she added. "'Try before you buy' has always been our policy. You need to do a great deal of explaining and have a strong sensitivity to Japanese customs. And we're always willing to provide additional pieces, like extra shades, that are needed."
"Japan is big enough and diverse enough to justify changing shades or formulas," said Waterfield. "This can be a rewarding market for those who are patient and willing to adapt."
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye