ORIENT EXPRESS ARRIVES

Byline: Kavita Daswani

GUANGDONG, China — The burgeoning mainland Chinese market will have its first real exposure to Cosmoprof when a delegation of China’s fastest-growing beauty companies arrives at the leading international trade show in Bologna in April.
In addition to the 20 or so department store buyers from throughout China expected to be at Cosmoprof, several independent beauty companies — both buying and selling an assortment of products — are converging at the event in a bid to significantly expand their trading networks.
Chinese visitors to Cosmoprof say they are hopeful their visit will enhance their contacts with international beauty companies, increase China’s profile in the worldwide marketplace and — most importantly — make the Chinese more familiar with global trading practices in the beauty arena.
“We are looking to both buy and sell,” said Zheng Liufang, assistant general manager of Ridolce International, a company based here that trades in beauty equipment and products. Ridolce is one of three companies from the newly wealthy province of Guangdong due to attend Cosmoprof; all have several years’ experience in the business and say they are now confident of their ability to compete with international brands.
“From here, we’re going to show China-made professional beauty equipment, such as salon chairs, facial steamers, trolleys and stools,” said Zheng. “We are also looking to buy hair care and beauty products that can be used in salons here in China.”
Eight-year-old Ridolce is considered one of the main players in the industry in southern China. In 1998, company executives acquired the rights to represent the Schwarzkopf line of hair products in southern China and soon after secured permission to distribute the Payot range of skin care products and cosmetics.
The production of general beauty equipment appears to be a strong suit of the local industry. Shao Ye Industrial and Trading Co., also based in Guangdong, was set up a decade ago to import a variety of professional products.
The company has now turned to manufacturing salon equipment, primarily barber and shampoo chairs marketed under the Remarkable Master label. The make is exported to the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Korea and Japan, and its producers are hoping to break into the Italian marketplace through Cosmoprof.
“Our products are very similar to what you might find made in Europe,” said Zheng Shaoxian, Shao Ye’s managing director. “We have a factory in Guangdong, which makes it especially easy for us to control the quality of our product line, as well as to offer the best prices possible compared to what is coming out of Europe,” he said.
He added that after a decade in the business, he had “never felt so confident about these products. We’ve learned a lot in these past 10 years, and now it’s time to show the world what China can do. I’m confident about getting orders from foreign companies.”
Chinese beauty producers are also hoping to exploit their reputation for traditional manufacturing techniques, which often employ all-natural and herbal ingredients. Hui Ni International makes the Waliy and Avenis lines of skin care products, which are made from plants and herbs and are among the best-selling domestically produced names in China.
The Guangdong Hair and Beauty Association, whose founder and chairwoman Ma Ya is often referred to as the “first lady” of the industry, is now the largest and most powerful beauty and cosmetics association in China, representing about 1,000 members.
A spokeswoman for the 11-year-old group, who asked not to be named, said the area produces one-third of all the hair and beauty products manufactured in the country. “The industry has developed very rapidly in the past 20 years,” she said.
“Now more and more people in China are becoming beauty conscious. There is a huge demand here for hair and beauty products, and the evidence is clear that businesses dealing in beauty are making good products and developing nicely.”
Twice yearly, the association organizes an international hair and beauty products fair, which is the largest of its kind in Asia.
Like elsewhere in Asia, name brand recognition rates high with Chinese consumers. A study conducted in Beijing last year indicated that 41 percent of working women there listed certain brands as among their favorites: L’Oreal, Oil of Olay, Pond’s, Japanese-made Kose and Maybelline.
In the early 1980s, the annual sales of cosmetics in China stood at around $120 million. As of 1998, that figure had soared to $14 billion. And while the manufacturing is centered in Guangdong, much of the buying is being done in Beijing, which boasts one of the highest per-capita incomes in the country.
Chinese officials have indicated that if China succeeds in becoming a member of the World Trade Organization this year, local companies will have a greater ability to compete with their overseas counterparts. Exports of Chinese cosmetics is predicted to reach $150 million by the end of 2000 and rocket to as high as $500 million within 10 years. Import tariffs have already been dramatically reduced from 150 percent to 25 percent for skin care and hairdressing products.
The cosmetics industry in China is currently valued at around $3.3 billion, but that figure is expected to reach close to $3.9 billion this year.

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