Business

Popular Japanese cosmetic portal @cosme gaining foothold in Asia

by Elaine Li and Hidetoshi Takada

Nna/kyodo

The operator of the popular beauty and cosmetic products portal site @cosme is rapidly gaining a foothold in Asia thanks to brisk demand for high-quality Japanese cosmetic brands.

The cosmetics retailer, Istyle Inc., opened its second brick-and-mortar @cosme store in Hong Kong earlier this month following the opening of its first outlet in the Chinese territory in June.

The Japanese company opened the new shop in the Tuen Mun district, in the New Territories, after the first shop at Star House, a commercial complex in Tsim Sha Tsui, one of Hong Kong’s busiest shopping districts, hit its initial target of more than 100,000 customers per month.

It says it plans to open a third shop in Hong Kong before the end of this year.

A Hong Kong woman in her 30s named Elize stopped by the Tuen Mun store on opening day and bought skin care products worth 170 Hong Kong dollars (¥2,450).

She said she has been familiar with the @cosme brand for some time and purchased products via the Chinese-language website as well as at an @cosme store during a trip to Japan.

For another female shopper in her 50s, it was her first encounter with an @cosme brand store. She bought facial cleansers and other items worth about HK$100.

“I have a faith in Japan-made products. My family occasionally buys them for me during a trip to Japan,” she said.

Istyle President and CEO Tetsuro Yoshimatsu noted in June that the company’s “product lineups at our stores reflect vast numbers of consumer reviews on our portal, a big difference (to the approach of) other shops,” he said while announcing the company’s foray into Hong Kong.

A spokeswoman at Istyle’s Tokyo headquarters said the company’s Hong Kong campaign has been buoyed by strong sales driven by the many shoppers visiting the Tsim Sha Tsui store, located in the busy tourist area of Kowloon.

The firm, listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, has continued to boost annual sales since its establishment in 1999 on the back of growing popularity based around the reviews and comments from over 14 million users of its portal, Japan’s largest consumer-to-consumer cosmetic products information source.

According to the company’s estimates, nearly three-quarters of Japanese women in their 20s and 30s use the @cosme site.

The beauty product vendor is gearing up to boost overseas business by extending its online and offline sales network.

Overseas sales in the business year to June this year posted a 2.6-fold rise over the previous year to ¥76.46 billion (about $688 million), or over a quarter of its consolidated sales.

The company has operated a cross-border e-commerce service and wholesale business to overseas clients since the end of 2014 and has seen rapid sales growth in China and other foreign markets.

Through the acquisition in 2016 of i-True Communications Inc., the operator of Taiwan’s leading cosmetics customer review site, Istyle has integrated its own service with that of its Taiwanese counterpart at home and on the island.

The Japanese company picked Taiwan as the location of its first direct entry into a foreign market in May 2017 and increased the number of stores to four in Taipei and Taichung.

It also started wholesale and retail businesses in South Korea in June this year to supply products to local retailers while promoting @cosme J Beauty Park, a Japanese cosmetic section, in a flagship duty-free shop run by Hotel Shilla Co.

In Malaysia, Istyle bought Hermo Creative (M) Sdn. Bhd., a beauty and cosmetics products e-commerce operator, in 2017 to expand its wholesale and online retailing arm into Southeast Asia.

In Thailand, it established a sales and site operation joint venture with a local partner earlier this year to prepare to open its first brick-and-mortar store in Bangkok in November, the Istyle spokeswoman in Tokyo said.