Japan’s cosmetic brands face tough operational challenges, losses in China amid declining consumer sentiment
Published: Nov 14, 2023 07:33 PM
A customer purchases cosmetic products at a shopping mall in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, July 3, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

A customer purchases cosmetic products at a shopping mall in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, July 3, 2022.Photo:Xinhua

Japanese cosmetic brands have been facing tougher challenges with their operations in China amid declining consumer sentiment after Tokyo's dumping of nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the ocean. 

Shiseido's net sales for the first nine months of this year fell 5.3 percent year-on-year to 722.42 billion yen ($4.76 billion), according to the company's recent results.

The company's total core operating profit during the third quarter alone fell 53 percent to 8.8 billion yen, while total net sales fell 15.3 percent to 228.2 billion yen, partly due to a decline in China. 

In the third quarter, sales fell in China as consumers pulled back on purchases of Japanese products after the release of the treated wastewater in Japan, according to the financial report. 

Purchases in China slowed significantly in the third quarter, contracting by a rate in the low teens, while year-to-date growth was in the low single-digit range, said a company representative at a press conference. 

The representative said that overall market activity was restricted in China after the wastewater release in August, such as suspension of streaming on key opinion leaders and new product campaigns. 

Net sales for Kao Corp, another Japanese company, fell 0.2 percent in the first three quarters to 1.13 trillion yen, according to the company's financial results. The company said in its report that it had experienced a market slowdown in China, which had previously been driving growth.

The declining sentiment was also reflected during the just-concluded Double 11 shopping festival in China. SK-II was ranked 11th on the sales listing for cosmetics during the festival from October 24 to November 11, the highest among Japanese brands, while Shiseido ranked 14th. 

In 2022, SK-II ranked No.8 while Shiseido was No.2, domestic industry publication Beauty in Sight reported.

Chinese consumers are concerned about the safety of Japanese products especially as cosmetics are directly applied on the skin, while the wastewater dumping itself had already damaged the image of Japanese brands, Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

High-end cosmetic brands from Europe and the US still play a relatively dominant role in the Chinese market, while China's own beauty brands have been developing rapidly with a strong competitiveness targeting low- and mid-range overseas competitors, Zhang said.  

Observers said that consumer concerns over safety will persist, and the absence of brand promotions and marketing during this period will further reduce the presence of Japanese brands in China's highly competitive beauty market. 

Global Times