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Luxe Skin-Care and Innovative Korean Brands Rule Hong Kong

Luxury skin-care, cutting-edge and Korean brands rule beauty retail.

HONG KONG — High-quality skin-care products and innovative beauty brands are the top sellers in Hong Kong with popular Korean brands setting many of the industry trends.

At Hong Kong retailer Lane Crawford, which has a portfolio of more than 100 beauty brands across Greater China, skin-care products have long been the top performer, popular with customers because they allow for an easy pampering routine at home. Masks and serums are the big favorites in this category. Especially popular are the range of masks — from hydrating to brightening — from U.S. brand Fresh. Also good sellers are brands that use traditional botanical ingredients and offer specialized skin benefits, such as Sulwhasoo, Clé de Peau Beauté and Whoo.

Skin-care products also trump the beauty lines at leading luxury department store Joyce, where top sellers of the leading brands include ReVive, 111 Skin and Perricone MD as well as brands with cutting-edge formulas such as Omorovicza and Tatcha.

Well-known high-quality brands are the beauty products of choice at T Galleria by DFS stores in Hong Kong. Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and Lancôme are popular as well as prestige brands such as Crème de La Mer, La Prairie and Clé de Peau Beauté. Also selling well are products that focus on natural ingredients.

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“We have also seen that our customers are engaging more with brands such as Fresh and Kiehl’s that have built wellness and well-being into their brand DNA, and have adjusted our portfolio to reflect these brands with that strong emotional connectivity,” said Ariel Gentzbourger, senior vice president, general merchandise manager of beauty at DFS.

She said technological products, such as the cushion compacts from Korean brands such as IOPE and Sulwhasoo, are increasingly in demand with customers. Lane Crawford and Joyce have also registered the impact of Korean brands and culture on the customer palate.

In the lipstick category, Lane Crawford finds that Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Tom Ford have all gained significant traction. Andrew Keith, president of Lane Crawford and Joyce, has noticed a correlation between marketing efforts and customer engagement.

“Most notably was the success of Tom Ford Lips & Boys launching 50 shades of lipstick all at once, each shade cleverly named after a boy,” said Keith.

In terms of lipstick colors, bold red and fuchsia are trending at Lane Crawford. While DFS finds the color segment doing well when linked to fashion brands such as YSL or Giorgio Armani or artistry such as MAC, François Nars and Make Up For Ever.

High-end fragrances such as Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle and Maison Francis Kurkdjian are the hot brands at Lane Crawford, while Joyce customers have an appetite for other artisanal fragrance brands such as Diptyque and Byredo.

The consumer trend for products with good efficacy has also seen them turn to domestic beauty devices. Previously the domain of professional therapists, increasingly skin-care treatments are also being done at home, representing a cost savings as well as convenience. At Joyce, the most popular domestic beauty devices are from NuFace, Foreo and Clarisonic that all regularly update their machines to incorporate higher sophistication and elevated functions.

There has also been a shift in the way customers are buying beauty products. Lane Crawford has noticed an increase in online spending at a high-triple-digit rate of increase versus last year, mainly thanks to its younger and digitally savvy customers.

“Bricks still represent a large part of the business, with face-to-face interaction — mainly through consultations and product recommendations — remaining a crucial element to the strong performance of the skin-care category,” said Keith.

Looking ahead, he expects the beauty market to remain highly competitive and dynamic.

“Competition has increased due to the popularity of Korean brands, their innovative products and midrange pricing, with Korean cosmetics now accounting for nearly a quarter of the cosmetics imported to China. We expect this upward trend to continue,” said Keith.

Lane Crawford plans to continue to invest in newness and diversity around products and brands that will give customers the opportunity to experiment and develop their preferences.

Luxury retailer Joyce, which has a portfolio of more than 60 brands, more than half of which are under its exclusive distribution in Greater China, takes a niche approach to curating its avant-garde beauty collection. It plans to continue to launch and incubate cutting-edge and innovative brands.

Gentzbourger said as a travel retail store, it has noticed that customers from a variety of cities and age groups —Millennials in particular — are seeking out the brands and products they love, but often can’t find them at home, during their travels. Responding to this demand, it has broadened its beauty offering to include more exclusive, localized products and last year launched a new retail concept, T Galleria Beauty by DFS, with four new stores in Hong Kong and Macau.