Retail in Asia – Adapting to Change

May 19, 2020

Cross-culture branding and communications agency Eat Creative has now shared a report with British Beauty Council on the state of retail in Hong Kong and China, as they adapt to the changes faced due to Covid-19. Given that Asia is ahead of Europe in terms of coronavirus developments, many brands and businesses are consistently looking to them for indicators of what’s potentially to come or for opportunities not yet explored.

Whilst the Eat Creative team admits the tough period is far from over, there are already signs of increased consumer demand and an inevitable change in consumer behaviour. One being the coined ‘revenge spending’ that has swept through China after the lift of lockdown, as luxury brands report record high single day sales from consumers keen to treat themselves again.

We share some of the other key trends on Beauty Bytes below:

Differing states of lockdown across Asia are impacting various industries in different ways. However, the region has collectively reported a significant drop in physical retail business, while e-commerce sales have remained steady or increased.

As touched upon in our Beauty Bytes article last week, in China Alibaba saw eye-cosmetic sales increase 150%, month over month, during the week of February 18 2020. In South Korea, cosmetics powerhouse Amorepacific reported an increase in skin care product sales. Over in Japan, Shiseido’s e-commerce sales are up, with all premium skincare brands enjoying strong online sales. One men’s self-care brand that’s benefited from a timely switch to e-commerce during this period is Japanese brand Bulk Homme; the brand reported a 130% year on year increase in sales in April.

Even pre-pandemic, the combination of live-streaming and online sales has been increasing in China. This has proved to be useful for brands like L’Oréal, who quickly turned to an online-first sales strategy. Combined with easing lockdown measures in March, the company reported an upturn in sales closing the first quarter up 6%.

Self-care in isolation
DIY beauty care is not just a result of people fearing close contact or salon restrictions, but also reflects the impact of economic difficulties faced by consumers. Skincare, nail care, hair care, and bath products all seem to be benefiting from self-care and pampering trends across all markets.

Some brands in Asia have swiftly invested in content to engage consumers and match their needs while in lockdown. Instagram reigns supreme as the platform of choice; two strong examples are daily Instalive sessions hosted by beauty experts at Sephora in Singapore (@sephorasg) and Uka in Japan (@instauka). Maison KOSE is also riding the hashtag trend by launching a series of videos filmed by brand ambassadors from their own homes.

‘Zoom Make-up’
For a lot of women in Asia, wearing a protective mask in the workplace has lifted the burden of applying a full face of make-up. On the other hand, remote working arrangements have created a new make-up trend in Japan: ‘Zoom Meeting Make-up’. Popular magazines like CanCam and VoCE have published tutorials especially aimed at putting your best face forwards online.

Cross-platform tie-ups
Cross-platform and cross-industry tie-ups have also been increasing in frequency, as make-up brands look to tap into more audiences in the digital domain. In 2019, M.A.C. Cosmetics China partnered with Tencent to create a limited-edition line of lipsticks co-branded with the game ‘Honor of Kings’.

Overall, despite the challenging time for all businesses, the crisis also provides opportunities, encouraging innovation and creativity alike. The Asian market may not provide a complete answer for other regions around the world of course but examining how brands and consumers are coming out of lockdown will provide valuable marketing lessons for all. And if you have not previously considered Asia as a market and are able, perhaps now is the time to do so.

About Eat Creative
Eat Creative is a brand and communications agency based in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Multi-disciplined and multicultural, they work in partnership with a roster of creative specialists, to tackle a wide range of creative challenges. They develop bespoke brand and communications strategies that address the specific needs for Western companies expanding into Asia and Asian companies to the West.

If you would like more intel or would like to speak with the Eat Creative team, head to or get in touch via

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