Cosmetics makers turn to high-end products

by Keiichiro Otsuka

Kyodo News

Major cosmetics makers are redoubling their efforts to develop new upscale facial creams and other products, some of which cost well over ¥100,000.

There is a polarizing trend in the cosmetics industry, with a number of companies shifting to more upscale items with novel ingredients and fancy containers while some shoppers are watching their pennies and buying cheaper items.

The companies are vigorously pushing into the premium market because of the handsome profits they can reap.

According to Shiseido Co., one of Japan’s long-established cosmetics firms, sales of skin care products in 2007 were up a modest 3 percent compared with 2004, but sales of items priced more than ¥20,000 leaped 24 percent.

Such luxury items are mainly bought by women in their 40s through 60s concerned about blemishes and moisture depletion.

“Many women in this age group have already been freed from the chores of bringing up children and have relatively large sums of money at their disposal,” an official at Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. said.

In the top-notch product category, companies are vying fiercely with one another to come up with luxury night creams.

On June 25, Noevir Co. began marketing a revamped version of its high-end Speciale. The cream sells for a whopping ¥105,000 per 50 grams, the same price as the old product, but contains twice the emulsified particle content.

It is made using nanotechnology to create superminute emulsified particles that permeate the skin surface better than larger particles. Speciale’s particles contain new moisturizing ingredients such as vitamin H.

The older product sold a cumulative 150,000 units after hitting the market in September 2003.

The company says it is aiming to raise sales of Speciale products, which include a lotion, to ¥3 billion in three months.

Kanebo Cosmetics’ Twany Century Cell Rhythm SP cream, which retails for ¥126,000 per 40 grams, seeps into the skin and is aimed at retarding the aging process, company officials said.

Sales of the product reached 28,000 units in the three years through 2007. Under a sales system introduced in 2005, shoppers place an order once a year.

“Buyers are mostly in their 50s and 60s, and some of the women say they reward themselves for their year’s work by buying our cream,” a Kanebo official said.

Orlane Japon Inc. is readying its Soin Absolute Creme de Nuit B21 for release Aug. 23. The night cream, priced at ¥31,500 per 50 milliliters, contains rice and soybean extracts.

The premium cosmetics war is heating up in department stores and other retail outlets.

Shiseido’s arsenal includes some pricey new items due to hit the market Sept. 21. Its revamped Synergique lineup, part of the company’s cle de peau beaute brand, will include a moisturizing lotion priced at ¥21,000 per 125 milliliters and a cream priced at ¥126,000 per 40 grams.

The ingredients help to keep the skin smooth and also fight blemishes and freckles, the company said.

Shiseido is targeting women in their late 40s and older as the core customer base for the products.

“We also want to target working women in their 30s and 40s who are making at least ¥10 million a year,” a Shiseido official said.

Kose Corp. is due to debut upgraded versions of its Cosme Decorte AQ lipsticks and eye shadows Aug. 21.

“With expensive foreign brands selling well, we can’t afford to be complacent, but we believe there is still room for sales growth for our high-end products,” said Kose President Kazutoshi Kobayashi.

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