Imports dominate Hong Kong’s supply of cosmetics, toiletries, and skincare products as there is very little domestic manufacturing. China was Hong Kong’s largest supplier of the US$958 million market in 2008, with a 16 percent market share. France, Japan and the U.S. were the other major suppliers. Hong Kong imported US$179 million worth of cosmetics, toiletry and skincare products from the U.S. in 2008. Imports of cosmetics, toiletry and skincare products will likely grow at between 8 and 11 percent in 2009 and 2010 given continued robust spending on these products from Mainland Chinese visitors in Hong Kong.
Importantly, Hong Kong is also a major launch pad for marketing cosmetics and skincare products in the mainland Chinese market. Hong Kong serves as a showcase for the millions of Chinese tourists (approximately 18 million in 2009) that annually visit Hong Kong, often with shopping for personal, family or even re-sale use as a primary or sole travel objective. For local retailers and distributors of cosmetics, toiletry and skincare products, increased sales in the next few years are expected to come largely from the mainland Chinese tourists. While China has reduced import duties on cosmetics and skincare products, thereby reducing the retail price differential between Hong Kong and China, mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong are still attracted to products in Hong Kong over China. According to industry sources, the perceived authenticity and reliability of the products in Hong Kong often outweighs the price consideration.
Apart from import tariffs that the Chinese government imposes on cosmetics, there are also VAT and product registration costs which do not exist in Hong Kong.
There are no import duties on cosmetics, toiletry and skincare products in Hong Kong and registration is not required for cosmetic products. The market is, however, very competitive, with the top ten brands accounting for about 70 percent of the market. Appointing a local distributor and working closely with that distributor to promote the brand, and adapting products to include whitening ingredients, modifying the packaging and product sizes to suit local tastes are important to remain competitive. U.S. cosmetic and toiletry suppliers are, however, known for being innovative in product development, and for producing high quality, safe products at competitive prices. Many U.S. brands are market leaders through continuous brand-building activities and advertisements, adaptation of products and competitive pricing. Hong Kong is an important entrepot for regional trading of cosmetic products, especially for reexports to China and some Southeast Asian countries. Many U.S. companies sell their cosmetics and skincare products to China through their Hong Kong distributors.
Products with the best sales prospects in Hong Kong are:
• Complete lines of facial whitening and anti-aging creams and lotions
• Fake eyelashes and eyelash growth and conditioning products
• Hair coloring and treatment products
• Color cosmetics for eyes, lips and face including permanent make-up for eyes and mineral make-up
• Nail colors, nail-care products, artificial nails, nail gels, and nail-art kits
• Body treatments, slimming treatments and massage and bath products for use in spas and skincare products for use with professional aestheticians’ supervision or with dermatologists’ supervision ( “prescription only” skincare or dermo-cosmetics)
• Skincare and cosmetic, toiletry and personal care products made of naturally-derived and organically-grown ingredients, are hypo-allergenic, and of low concentrations of fragrance and preservatives
• Skincare products for men
• Sun protection products for the face and body.
Several international cosmetics brands choose Hong Kong as their first overseas market or for launching new products in Asia citing its open regulatory environment as the attraction. Hong Kong accepts U.S. product labeling and there are no local mandatory labeling or registration requirements on cosmetics.
Demand from tourists accounts for about 30 percent of Hong Kong’s total retail sales of cosmetics, skincare and toiletry products. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, about 80 percent of the mainland Chinese tourists who visited Hong Kong shop and cosmetic and skincare products were among their top three shopping purchases. Local retailers and distributors are eager to increase the brands and types of products that they can offer to mainland Chinese shoppers. The number of mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong is expected to grow to 22 million by 2011. The drop in the value of the U.S. dollar against the Renminbi in 2008 and 2009, has also made Hong Kong an even more attractive shopping destination for U.S.-made skincare products and cosmetics as the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar. U.S. cosmetic products also enjoy an excellent reputation among the Chinese consumers.
Many of the mega and luxury casino resorts in Macau that have opened in the past few years feature facilities such as spas and skincare treatment centers for the casino and MICE visitors. Macau received an estimated 21 million visitors in 2009 (compared with an estimated 30 million for Hong Kong,) of which about 55 percent or 11.5 million were from China. As in Hong Kong, Chinese visitors to Macau also purchase skincare products and cosmetics in the major casino resorts’ shopping malls.