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L’Oreal strengthens Phl foothold

De Saint Victor

MANILA, Philippines — Sales of beauty and personal care products in the Philippines are rising rapidly, thanks in part to the growing affluence of young professionals who are always on the lookout for the latest beauty trends and must-have products.

Dynamic styles and the ever-changing needs of the younger and more fashionable segment of the population have prodded global cosmetics brands to set up shop or expand their presence in the Philippines and well-known international brand L’Oreal is no exception as it strengthens its foothold in the local market. 

Present in the Philippines for over two decades now, the local unit of L’Oreal is refocusing its goals as it adapts to a millennial market with an increasing purchasing power, and a country that has a brighter economic prospects.

L’Oreal Philippines country manager Thibault de Saint-Victor, who has been in the Philippines for just two years, considers the Philippine market as an interesting one, emphasizing its entry into the demographic sweet spot, a period during which youth accounts for an increasing larger proportion of the population.

“The Philippine market has changed drastically in the last 20 years. The Philippines is a lot into what we call expressive beauty. When you go on the streets, you feel that it’s a country where people want to express themselves,” De Saint Victor said in an interview with The STAR.

“About 20 years ago, it’s not that much and it was very basic. But we’ve seen that Filipinas are crazy about beauty. When a country starts, it never stops as women never abandons their beauty because it is a way to express themselves,” he added.

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While De Saint Victor can be considered as a L’Oreal baby, having worked for the company after his college graduation in 2005, he worked in sales and marketing for what can be considered as more conservative countries like Iran, Ukraine and Algeria before he was assigned to the Philippines.

“The Philippines is a very positive nation, everybody is young and motivated. The people are the real resource here. I was not really that prepared (when I got here) but so far, things are doing pretty good. This country has a bright future,” he said.

A leading name in the beauty industry worldwide, L’Oreal is into cosmetics, skin care, hair care and professional products. Among its product lines are Maybelline, NYX Professional Makeup, Garnier, and its more high-end brand of Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani, among others.

But just like in every market, a certain line of product will get a big chunk of attention from consumers and right now L’Oreal Philippines continues to adjust its priorities to tap more users.

“Before, we were investing in a lot of categories that probably diluted our investment a bit. We decided to refocus which means that less investment in haircare for instance, and focus on makeup and skincare,” De Saint Victor said.

And the move has so far reaped positive results for the company, making L’Oreal Philippines one of the most successful entities of the brand worldwide, overtaking three out of the six major players in Southeast Asia.

“Being very focused on where we can actually win and to really lead the market is what’s working for L’Oreal. We focus a lot on makeups, it has a sizable market and it is a market that is really growing fast,” De Saint Victor said.

While expressive beauty is very subjective in nature, De Saint Victor maintains that L’Oreal is a brand that provides beauty for all and a brand that boosts the self-confidence of its consumers amid a seemingly critical public and distinct social pressures.

“Makeup is extremely important and women should be free to do whatever they want. Expressing beauty is here already but now we can see a lot more daring, darker colours and people are trying to do a lot of things,” he shared.

Healthy competition

Amid the entry of more players in the beauty market, be it international brands or local celebrities putting up their own makeup line, L’Oreal believes being an established brand works in their favor, stressing   that competition is good for the industry.

“More competition and more brands mean more innovation that the market is getting. Competition is good but I really believe in our capabilities to lead beauty,” De Saint Victor said.

“Being an established brand can be an asset and liability. Makeup is all about expertise, it’s all about craftsmanship and this is something that cannot be improvised. Just because people love makeups does not mean they already know how to make it marketable and this is what we know, that is why we lead in beauty,” he added.

De Saint Victor noted that in the world of beauty, one cannot just stick with the same traditional process and that makeup is very volatile where once cannot just have one recipe and expect it to work all the time.

Changing times

As the 108-year-old international company adapts to the changing times, its Philippine unit is also keen on improving its ways to reach more consumers particularly in a time where people spend majority of their hours online.

E-commerce continues to grow and expand and L’Oreal is taking advantage of the newest channel that has a lot of potentials as it partners with Lazada, Zalora, and Beauty Manila, among others.

“We have to keep up with the times. Not everybody is shopping yet online but we believe that in a couple of years, it will be a top beauty destination in the country,” De Saint Victor said.

The bulk of L’Oreal’s sales is still via offline or those in physical stores but De Saint Victor projects that in the next five to 10 years, the share of online and offline sales will be just equal.

Furthermore, L’Oreal remains bullish with the Philippines’ economic prospects given the rising consumer spending which will fuel the company to continue expanding through new trends that it will introduce in the local beauty setup.

“Prospects are extremely good. Expressive beauty is a trend that will continue in good times and bad times, it is very economic resistant. What we need to do is to keep on investing so that we can still lead and anticipate what Filipino will actually want,” De Saint Victor said.

Apart from tapping more consumers and continuing the lead in the local beauty sector, De Saint Victor said L’Oreal Philippines ensures that it contributes a fair share in the community through its corporate social responsibility.

The company is focusing on two main pillars, namely communities and waste reduction, which L’Oreal believes are the most important aspects that should be given ample attention in the Philippines.

Through its Beauty for Better Life program, L’Oreal trains unemployed women and single mothers to become hair dressers. L’Oreal also targets to gradually decrease its waste generation to contribute to a more sound environment.

“We work with Holcim and a lot of our obsoletes go there (cement plants) instead of landfills so what started out as lipstick will eventually be part of cement. As we become bigger and bigger, our responsibilities are also increasing,” De Saint Victor said.






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