French cosmetics brands eye increased sales and cooperation in China
William Denselow in Paris
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, for many, French cosmetic brands are the fairest of them all.
The stores on the Champs-Elysees in Paris attract visitors from around the world, but the Chinese market has become increasingly important. According to French officials, China accounts for roughly 35 percent of the revenue of many French cosmetic companies.
"We've seen that for years French brands, cosmetic groups, are making a lot of effort to be more locally targeted to satisfy local consumers," says Asia Cosme Lab market intelligence director Fei Xu.
That's no surprise. China is the world's second-biggest cosmetics market, with only the U.S. spending more money in the market. China is predicted to generate roughly $60 billion next year – and analysts expect growth to continue. According to the 2023 Business of Fashion and McKinsey State of Fashion report, the Chinese beauty market is expected to be worth around $96 billion by 2027.
That's an attractive prospect for many French brands. Sephora now has more than 200 stores in China as it seeks to turn heads in that market. However, a strict regulatory environment has been a fly in the ointment for some companies.
China still requires animal testing on certain cosmetics, including hair dye and sun cream. Furthermore, importing companies must divulge a full list of ingredients – including precise quantities – for their products. Some believe this risks goods being pirated, but advocates say it protects consumers.
While China and France may not see eye to eye on everything, the two nations say they are committed to leveling the playing field in the cosmetics sector. Next year a French embassy for the cosmetics industry will be established in China.
"Our companies that are located around Shanghai or somewhere else in China will be together in a network – to promote 'Made in France' but also to develop more collaboration with our Chinese partners," says Cosmetic Valley general manager Christophe Masson.
Increased cooperation may make sense. Imports of beauty products from France to China fell by more than 6 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2022. Domestic brands are gaining market share in China, increasing competition for the major French brands – no matter how well-established they are.