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J-Beauty’s Exploding Popularity in the West, Which Brands are in Control of this Boom?

May 10, 2018.Tokyo, JP
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As the fiscal year ended in December 2017, Shiseido made over 1 trillion yen worth of sales, while Kose had consolidated net sales of approximately 22,365,600 million yen by the end of the third quarter in 2017 for five consecutive years. Japan’s corporate profit highs in the beauty industry seems to be in good shape. What’s doing favourable is the growing demands in the exports of cosmetics to foreign countries along with the impact in the depreciation of Japanese yen as a result of ‘Abenomics’, the doctrine set by Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo to ease monetary government spendings and to create time for its structural reforms. Which as of recent, the process has been rickety. The growth in the cosmetic markets rely on the continuing visitors coming to Japan however, in recent years, foreign markets especially in the West with the spreading popularity of ‘J-Beauty’ can’t be overlooked.

‘J-Beauty’, an abbreviation for Japanese Beauty, was overshadowed by the Korean beauty boom, referred to as ‘K-Beauty’ in the West in recent years. UK VOGUE and Business Of Fashion articles related to J-Beauty are beginning to make its appearances. The differences between Korean and Japanese beauty can at first be difficult to perceive, however at a closer look, K-Beauty is characterized by eye catching packaging design and innovative ideas driven by trends, while J-Beauty is focused on skincare and beauty rituals tracing back to the past embedded in history and tradition.

While J-Beauty's position is uncertain even with the recent popularity, companies that have sensed the premonition of the boom are scrambling to accelerate their overseas strategies to avoid being the last ones on the train. Kose who purchased US cosmetic brand, Tarte, in 2014, last year constructed a research base in France while Shiseido announced this year in March the ‘New Global Beauty Company from Japan’ in a new three-year plan where they’ll focus on building a global management infrastructure that establishes strategic plans; makeup in the United States and in Europe, on fragrances.

In addition to these movements, med-sized brands are also expanding abroad. Among them, Kanebo’s subsidiary e’quipe Ltd.’s brand, SUQQU is gradually paving its way into the spotlight. SUQQU currently has 4 counters in department stores such as Harrods and Selfridge in the UK, and is being recognized in Europe as J-Beauty’s leading brand. They’ll participate in a panel discussion at the Summit of the International Department Store Association this year in May. To add to the success, recent established cosmetics brand, shiro originating from Hokkaido, has also opened in New York and was even told that its chances of expansion overseas was nearly little to nothing. With the domestic market slowly reaching its shrinking mark, the boom in J-Beauty and these companies will continue to flourish in the coming of days.

Shu uemura and SK-II under foreign affiliates have already been widely recognized and are deployed in the global market. Their international branding colour though strong, have little benefits from the J-Beauty boom. Though longtime established overseas, their popularity and success rode on in the Asian markets, but somehow was the kid in the corner in the Western markets. K - Beauty was successful in making use of exporting its ever so popular K-Pop contents that were already well-known in Europe and the United States. In collaborating with export contents that are familiar overseas such as Japanese subcultures, cuisines, kimonos, animes, etc. is important as much as it is to associating those ideas that are already dispensed in the West. The key to the future lies in the advantage in using the backgrounds that are already rooted in Japan and to create a long-lasting impression in the Western markets.