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Kanebo to Debut Sensai Brand in Japan and China

It will be the first foray into Asia for the Japanese brand that has a history of more than 35 years in European markets.

TOKYO — After more than three decades in Europe, Kanebo Cosmetics is finally releasing its Sensai line of prestige skin care and makeup in its home market of Japan. The first counters for the brand in Asia will open in Tokyo and Osaka this coming fall, with an expansion into the Chinese market to follow next year.

“When I first started in this position last January, I got a lot of inspiration from the Sensai brand, and I immediately started to put the pieces in place to sell it in Japan and Asia,” said Yoshihiro Murakami, president and representative director of Kanebo. “All that work is now finally starting to come to fruition with this launch.”

Originally created specifically for the European market in 1983, the brand underwent a major rehaul in 2005 and is sold in around 40 countries, but none of those is in Asia. All Sensai products contain an extract of Koishimaru silk, a rare type of fine Japanese silk that was once reserved solely for the country’s Imperial Family. Before entering the cosmetics field, Kanebo originated as a textile company, working with silk from the year 1908.

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The tag line of the Sensai brand is “the sense and science of Japan,” and brand manager Yosuke Fukuda said it combines a subtle and refined Japanese sense of beauty with Kanebo’s latest scientific developments in the cosmetics field.

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Sensai is also clearly marketed as a Japanese brand, celebrating its uniqueness among competitors, many of which are European. While in Japan European brands once dominated the luxury cosmetics field, there is a growing sense of pride in local brands among consumers. Murakami said that for the initial launch the company is targeting what he calls a “cultured class,” specifically those who have traveled or lived abroad, creating a renewed appreciation and respect for Japanese products.

While the product selection of Sensai in Japan will not be exactly the same as that in Europe, it will include a full range of skin care, cleansing products, foundation and color cosmetics, from the newly launched Absolute Silk line to the most prestigious Ultimate collection. A total of 35 products in 75 variations will be available, with prices ranging from 3,000 yen to 71,500 yen, or about $28 to $660 at current exchange.

The standout product in the Absolute Silk series, which hit European markets in June, is the Micro Mousse Treatment, a mousse-textured carbonated foam antiaging lotion. It incorporates a new type of micro bubbles that are 8,000 times smaller than bubbles in ordinary carbonated water and resist popping, which the company said provides enhanced skin-care effects.

The first Sensai salespoint to open in Japan will be a travel retail counter at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, scheduled for August. This will be followed by Shinjuku Isetan in September and Hankyu Umeda in Osaka in October. A dedicated Japanese e-commerce site is also planned for the fall. An entry into China will happen sometime in 2020, possibly followed by other Asia markets.

The launch of Sensai in Asia is a pillar of Kanebo’s business strategy, unveiled by Murakami in May last year. At that time the executive said the company was aiming to grow its profit margin to 10 percent by 2020 — it had been 4.7 percent in 2017 — but it reached that goal far earlier than targeted. The company’s 2018 profit margin was 9.9 percent.

Murakami said Kanebo has a series of other major announcements for other brands planned for the coming months, including a relaunch and expansion of Sofina IP and a large-scale fragrance launch for Molton Brown next month.

Like the Sensai brand, Kanebo’s business overall will continue to focus on the European and Asian markets for the time being, with no current plans to enter the American market.

“I won’t say it will never happen, but for now we want to strengthen and grow our portfolio and presence across Europe and Asia before we consider expanding our business into new markets,” Murakami said.