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Global Economics

Male Vanity Helps Drive Cosmetics Sales in China


Male Vanity Helps Drive Cosmetics Sales in China

Photograph by Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images

In China, job applications typically require a résumé—and a personal headshot. The emphasis on personal appearance, both at work and in finding a spouse, has helped fuel China’s $22 billion (134 billion renminbi) cosmetics industry. And today it’s not only the ladies striving to look their best. Seventy-three percent of Chinese men in China’s leading cities told consumer research firm Kantar Worldpanel that looking good was essential for success with both women and work.

Last year, sales in China of personal grooming products marketed specifically to men (facial cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, etc.) rose 7 percent, compared with 5 percent growth in the overall market, according to Kantar. In China’s leading cities, the average man uses 2.5 facial products daily, the most of any East Asian country. Yet other product categories have been slower to catch on: Only 13 percent of Chinese men surveyed regularly use deodorant.

Sales of male-tailored skin-care lines, such as L’Oréal Men Expert, now make up just 5 percent of China’s $13 billion (80 billion RMB) skin-care market, but analysts expect that percentage to rise rapidly as marketers increasingly target male ambitions and insecurities in China.

Three global brands—L’Oréal (OR:FP), Olay (PG), and Mary Kay—account for 12.5 percent of total cosmetics sales in China. While Revlon has recently announced plans to withdraw from the China market, Mary Kay is planning an expansion. The Texas-based company, famous in China for giving away pink Mercedes to its top sales staff, is now in talks to purchase a $135 million office building in downtown Shanghai, as the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Alongside the growth in personal grooming products, more men and women in China’s big cities are hitting the gym. According to IBISWorld, a business intelligence firm based in Australia, the number of commercial gyms in China quadrupled between 2004 and 2012 (to about 5,750 gyms), generating $3.69 billion in annual revenue. The fitness market is dominated by domestic companies. The top foreign brand, CSI-Bally Total Fitness, commands just 1.2 percent of the market.

Larson is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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