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Cosmetics counters drive Japan sales

Publication Date : 29-10-2012


Major department stores have devised strategies to increase sales of high-end cosmetics, such as setting up free makeup advice counters and opening specialty stores in major station buildings.

Relying on the courteous service and knowledge of cosmetics that department stores are known for, they aim to win back customers who have deserted them for drugstores and other shops.

Sogo & Seibu Co. has set up a makeup consultation counter called Kirei Station at Seibu department store's main outlet in Ikebukuro and its Shibuya branch, both in Tokyo. Advance reservations are required to receive complimentary makeup advice from experts at the counter.

The advisers use special devices to check customers' skin and give tips on skin care.

The advisers recommend the cosmetics that best suit a customer's skin, without a preference for specific brands.

The secret behind the popularity of the service is that customers do not feel obligated to purchase recommended products from the experts because the advisers do not directly sell them.

Customers are given reference cards after the consultation listing the recommended products. If they want to buy the suggested cosmetics, they take the cards to each brand's specific counter.

Since the service was set up in the Seibu Ikebukuro outlet in April 2010, about 4,000 people have used the service each year, which contributed to an increase in annual cosmetics sales by about 10 per cent.

"The strategy of counseling people individually, which is the strength of department stores, resulted in winning a large number of customers," said Sogo & Seibu Managing Officer Shinichi Nakajima.

Sogo & Seibu plans to introduce Kirei Station at its five flagship stores such as Sogo Yokohama and Chiba branches by the end of this year, the company said.

According to Japan Department Stores Association, cosmetics account for about 5 per cent of total department store sales--less than one-fifth of sales of clothing or food.

However, department stores regard the cosmetics sales as important.

"[Cosmetics sales enjoy] a high rate of repeat purchases. It's a core [section] of attracting customers," a Takashimaya Co. official said.

But as other retail shops have also started selling high-end cosmetics recently, competition has increasingly intensified.

Major supermarket chain operator Aeon Co. opened high-end cosmetics shop Cosmeme at a shopping mall in Saitama Prefecture last autumn.

The shop is especially popular among women in their 20s. Aeon plans to open additional Cosmeme branches in other shopping malls.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of department stores are expanding their businesses beyond the traditional all-inclusive department store setting.

Takashimaya opened a small specialty shop in JR Kawasaki Station building in September to sell products from 11 prestige cosmetics brands. The shop displays products such as lotion and lipstick by item instead of by brand to facilitate the trial of such high-end cosmetics.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. opened a similar shop in the Shinjuku Lumine station building in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, in March.

"A younger generation of customers [comes here] rather than the Shinjuku main outlet of our Isetan department store," an Isetan official said.


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