East Africa is one of the fastest-growing markets for beauty products and as tastes get more discerning local and international companies are cashing in.
With East Africa’s middle classes developing a taste for high-quality personal care and beauty products, international cosmetics companies like L’Oréal and homegrown ones like Kenya’s SuzieBeauty are rushing to cash in on this fast-growing market.
the clientele has become a very even mix of women and men
By Staff Writer at the Africa Report: Originally Posted on Thursday, 11 September 2014 13:00
Lintons Beauty World, a Kenyan retailer, is looking to open its fourth outlet after it started operations seven years ago.
“We call ourselves the house of brands. We may all be black, but our skins are different. That is why we decided we are not going to go with one brand. We have Clarins, Estée Lauder and Clinique, Nimue, Fashion Fair, Black Opal and soon we will be bringing MAC and Essie,” says Joyce Gikunda, the retailer’s director.
Trained as a pharmacist, Gikunda began selling cosmetics in 1988 in the pharmacy that was her family business, when the African cosmetics market was dominated by skin-lightening creams. Her idea at the time was to offer safe skincare products.
In 2007, the first stand-alone Lintons Beauty World shop opened at the Westgate Mall. In 2013, the family sold the pharmacy business to concentrate on cosmetics.
“We are targeting the middle- and upper-class market,” she says. “The Kenyan woman is well educated. She knows the importance of having good-quality beauty products. It is better to spend a little bit more at the beginning than to fix a bigger problem later on in life,” Gikunda explains.
Patricia Ithau, managing director of L’Oréal East Africa, says media and digital platforms promote borderless awareness.
According to a recent report by the African Development Bank, East Africa’s middle classes include about 30 million people. This represents 23% of the total population of 140 million.
The opportunity has attracted international companies like Revlon, Unilever, PZ Cussons and Beiersdorf.
Others are setting up offices in Kenya to serve the greater East African region.
In February of this year, India’s Godrej Consumer Products completed the takeover of Kenya-based hair care company the Darling Group.
The deal between Godrej and Darling was launched in 2011 and relates to Darling’s operations in 14 African countries.
The members of the growing middle classes tend to be more discerning about quality and price, so companies are trying to keep up with this trend.
Suzie Wokabi, chief executive of SuzieBeauty, says: “This growing middle class is a clientele that is getting more sophisticated in taste and need for quality products. The access to the world through the internet also helps the African woman raise her standards and expect the same from product providers.”
SuzieBeauty’s focus has been on cosmetics and make-up products. It plans to launch a skincare line and compete in a wider realm. It has 12 outlets in Kenya and distributors in other East African countries.
“We have achieved what we hoped – great product that is affordable – and filled that gap in the market. I have personally created this product for us, the African woman. We have the same needs that SuzieBeauty has and continues to address,” adds Wokabi.
“Make-up in general or colour cosmetics are getting more popular each day. Skincare continues to be important with more revolutionary products being necessary.”
L’Oréal’s Ithau concurs. She says beauty products are moving from the basic to the more sophisticated, including hair colour, hair extensions and cosmetics.
According to Euromonitor International, the colour cosmetics market in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda is worth $152m and is projected to grow to $231m by 2018.
South Africa and Nigeria remain the largest markets for personal care and cosmetics in Africa, estimated at €3bn ($4bn) and €1.6bn each, according to consultants at Roland Berger.
“The other area I would call out is the entry of men into the beauty market. East African men are becoming more beauty conscious and looking for products designed for men. You see this in the number of lotions for men, deodorants for men, even shower gels for men. This has extended to hair and beauty salons, especially in the upper-middle class, where the clientele has become a very even mix of women and men,” says Ithau.
In order to expand in the East African market, the regional L’Oréal subsidiary acquired local brand Nice & Lovely in April 2013.
Some of the brands have trained Lintons employees to deliver services in their stores, such as facials, massages, nail therapies and consultations on beauty and nutrition.
“It is quality service delivery and educating the consumer. I believe ladies think being lighter is beautiful. We need to change our mindset. Use skincare products and make-up to enhance what you have, not to change,” says Gikunda.
The biggest concern for the market players are the unsafe skin lightening and counterfeit products.