There is no shortage of data on how much money China’s richest have spent, are spending, and will continue to spend on luxury fashion, automobiles, travel and real-estate. Whether it’s in-country or, increasingly, in western outposts like New York, London and Paris, China’s millionaires and billionaires are contributing heavily to the bottom lines of companies like LVMH, PPQ, Burberry, and Rolls Royce–all of which recently reported expectations-surpassing earnings for Q1 2012.
Beauty is another luxury sector experiencing massive growth thanks to the Chinese. Unlike a Dior dress, a Dior lipstick is more affordable to more people, making it an attainable as opposed to aspirational luxury. Between 2010 and 2011, Chinese sales of luxury beauty products — defined by the NPD Group as “skincare, makeup and fragrance products sold mainly in department stores and Sephora stores in mainland China” in a new study released today — are up 21 percent across the board. A breakdown of product growth:
The anomaly here is mascara, whose revenue tumbled by 3 percent and dragged down the eye makeup category, which saw an overall boost of only 6 percent between 2010 and 2011. An explanation for this, other than a sudden country-wide disinterest in mascara, could be a product-specific transition from luxury to mass-marketed brands. In other words, recognizing little difference between the $35 department store mascara and its $5 drugstore counterpart, more and more women might be opting for the latter. Since mascara is an item that must be replaced more frequently than most cosmetic items, those dollars (yuan) saved certainly add up.
Another driver of strong beauty sales in China is that they can be easily purchased online. For the hundreds of millions of Chinese who live outside Tier One cities (where the vast majority of brick and mortar stores are located), online is the only option. And the numbers reflect this: since 2006, online beauty sales have experienced more than 200 percent growth, according to Kline & Company. In 2011 alone, the Chinese spent more on beauty products (both luxury and mass-marketed varieties) via the internet than consumers in France, Europe’s largest beauty market, spent in retail stores and online combined. To put that further in perspective, online beauty purchases in China last year were nine times that in the U.S. This is in part due to population disparity but not entirely–the number of online buyers in China at this time was approximately 200 million, compared to 148 million in the U.S.