After a decade of research and development, home-grown skincare label Heure was not going to let a pandemic get in the way of its launch.
The premium line under Estetica Beauty, which owns the Estetica chain of beauty salons and skincare brand Est Lab, debuted online in November. Its products, formulated and made in Singapore, are priced from $130 to $190.
Lim Ker Han, director of Heure, had his concerns about launching, but was encouraged by a supportive pre-Covid consumer market. Going the e-commerce route also helped.
Heure is a local trailblazer in the beauty scene in Singapore which aims to provide effective skincare solutions driven by science and powered by a unique system of encapsulated transdermal delivery that enables active ingredients to permeate deeper layers of skin.
“Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of consumer momentum supporting (new brands) entering the premium skincare market.”
“One result of the digital pivot is that consumers seem more likely to try out new brands than ever, especially those that have a stronger digital and social media presence,” he says.
“There has been more engagement with new brands that have launched during the past year than at any other time.”
In fact, demand for skincare has gone up since the pandemic, he adds. “There’s evidence that the narrowing options for people to spend – especially on travel – during Covid-19 actually fuelled demand for affordable luxury, especially skincare.”
Indeed, after an initial lull in consumer spending, skincare has enjoyed strong demand in the pandemic, replacing spending on make-up for many. Some consumers are willing to splurge too.
Research firm Euromonitor found that, despite declining by 0.4 per cent last year, sales of premium beauty and personal care in Singapore are expected to grow by 4.2 per cent this year.
The market is estimated to be worth $947.5 million this year, having grown from $799 million in 2015.
Singaporeans are also becoming less brand-loyal. According to a 2019 Nielsen report, skincare is one of the categories that see the most brand-switching, with 47 per cent of consumers here doing so.
Coupled with the demand, this has paved the way for new names to enter the local market.
In the last five months, at least five skincare brands that position themselves as premium or luxury have launched in Singapore. In October, Japanese brands MT Metatron and Est debuted with counters at Isetan, while New Zealand clean beauty brand Emma Lewisham launched e-commerce here.
Cult luxury labels Dr Barbara Sturm and Augustinus Bader also established a retail presence with a pop-up store and counter at Tangs at Tang Plaza respectively.
They join a growing pool of luxury labels here that include Estee Lauder Companies’ La Mer and Shiseido’s Cle De Peau Beaute, as well as niche labels like French brand Chantecaille and Japanese brand Decorte.
Brands interviewed say they view Singapore as an attractive market because consumers here are savvy about skincare, and are willing and able to spend on quality products.
Nakanishi Masatoshi, MT Metatron’s managing director, says: “Singapore customers are highly sensitive and receptive to the latest product trends and technology. They have a high level of awareness and standards for quality products and are adventurous in their pursuit of beauty.”
He was also enticed by the country’s position as a global hub.
The brand plans to expand to at least three counters within the region and seven in China in the next five years.
“Pre-Covid, Chinese tourists accounted for 20 per cent of the tourist population in Singapore. Currently, our brand presence is growing in China – we believe that we will have a strong advantage in Singapore once international travel resumes,” says Masatoshi.
“I see huge potential in the growth of the medical aesthetic market in Asia, including Singapore. I believe Singapore will recover strongly after the pandemic, and spending will become stronger than pre-pandemic days.”
Similarly, Japanese beauty conglomerate Kao decided to bring Est to Singapore after noting the growth potential of premium skincare products in department stores in Japan and the rest of Asia, says Kao Singapore’s marketing manager Cheryl Koh.
“Also, people in Singapore are highly conscious of beauty. With increasing disposable income and the rising affluence of the general population, local customers are willing to invest in quality skincare products that have convincing theories and results,” she adds.
“Singapore customers are generally who Est users will be.”
Emma Lewisham found that Singapore was her eponymous label’s third largest market when she launched online here in October. “We had many customers here who were connecting organically with our products. We find Singaporean women care about natural skincare, but don’t want to sacrifice performance for a natural formulation, which is the premise
of our brand,” says Ms. Lewisham, who plans to retail physically here this year.
She adds that her products are 100 per cent naturally derived and certified safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
She adds: “As with pregnant women in other markets, Singaporean women are aware that what is put onto their skin is absorbed into the body, so they carefully vet and select brands which will be safe for their baby. They invest, are very meticulous, and they do their research.”
Consumers such as Mel Badinski, 33, welcome the new additions to the market.
The esthetician, for whom “skincare is life”, spends $200 to $300 on skincare monthly – to top up on her favourite products and try new brands that catch her eye.
She has tried Augustinus Bader in the past, and is excited to be able to save on shipping now.
But she has to be convinced by innovation to try something new. The skincare fanatic believes there is still “a lot of room for serious skincare here in Singapore”.
“I’m definitely always in the mood to explore, but ingredients lists of the luxury skincare we have here don’t often excite me.
“I’d like to see more silicone-free and fragrance-free options; something more exciting than hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C serums; and not just the same products in luxury packaging.”