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Interview with Edward Wong - President of Spa & Wellness Association Singapore (SWAS)

Insights into Singapore’s Beauty & Wellness Market Trends

Esth’EdeS Institute Limited

Mr. Edward Ong, President

Introduction

The Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore (SWAS) was founded in 2004 by business owners and professionals working in the Wellness Industry to promote and protect good business practices, communication, networking and collaboration amongst members and with other organizations in Singapore.

SWAS currently represents stakeholders from the Beauty, Slimming, Hair, Nail, Spas, Mind & Body Fitness and Massage sectors of the Wellness Industry. They work towards upgrading industry standards, education and training as well as enhance management and operational capabilities of members’ businesses and practioners.

With the intention to share the insights of the president of SWAS related to overseas expansion into Singapore’s beauty and wellness industry, GPC has conducted this interview to gain access to a wealth of knowledge and opportunities.

Please introduce about the association, its role and its members.

The Spa and Wellness Association Singapore was formed in 2004 by a group of Singapore Beauty and Spa professionals and expatriates with the objective to enhance good business practices and competencies to develop the industry.

We are a small association consisting of about 400 corporate members in salons and spas (hair, beauty, spa and massage). There are other beauty associations, but we are probably on top of that list. Our member companies are mostly well-established companies with high standards.

Our main activities have been in facilitating communication with government agencies and other organizations, promoting the interests of our members including development of competencies, networking and business development in Singapore and abroad.

Please tell us about yourself and your own business. How do you source for new products?

Apart from being the president of SWAS, I am the owner of SwissBrands Singapore Pte Ltd as well as the Principal Consultant of a Business Advisory and Management Consultancy company. I am a Certified Management Consultant and Council member of the Institute of Management Consultants (Singapore). My consultancy service business supports entrepreneurs and SMEs in the Wellness, Retail and Service industries.

I entered the Beauty and Wellness industry as a distributor of beauty products in 1986 and founded the EdeS Brand of Professional Beauty Treatment products business in 1990. EdeS products are sold through salons and professional therapists. I work with manufacturers directly, mainly from Switzerland and other European countries.

In the past, you have to visit exhibitions to look for new products, but nowadays you can source for products online. The internet is very convenient, especially if you know what you want. Visiting an exhibition is time consuming and costly, but exhibitions can be a good source for new products and ideas. For me, after having spent 30 years in the industry, I also know a lot of people – manufacturers, suppliers and distributors etc., therefore have a wide circle of contacts and many information sources for trends, new products and methodologies.

There are many exhibitions for beauty and wellness products in Asia. I find the Japanese expos to target more for the Japanese market. For our association members, some of them will visit exhibitions and go on the internet to find new products, others will go through the association to find potential partners.

What qualities are the most important for a company (start-up, SME, or large enterprises), to successfully go global? What are the things to consider before deciding an overseas market expansion?

Going global is not an easy endeavor. It requires a lot of efforts, resources and/or luck to be successful. Depending on whether if the company wants to simply export their products and leave everything to the importer; or find and work with a distributor; or to manage its own market development and expansion, the strategy and commitment levels are very different. To start with, the company shall consider its own domestic market, strengths, products, resources etc. before deciding how to go globally.

Targeting a new market may require some adjustment to business strategy to meet local culture, consumer preferences, regulations and competition etc. Therefore, it is important to identify the target market or segment, whether it is the anti-aging market, young market, or men market, etc. Singapore is a small market compared with Japan and other Asian countries. Therefore, it is necessary to study and understand target customers and their buying habits before entry.

If a Japanese company wish to develop and manage the Singapore business, they must have a successful business in Japan, the financial resources; the manpower to study and understand the market. The first question should be “are my products suitable for the Singapore market?” As different segments may have different requirements, the company should understand the relevant regulations for registration/ licensing requirements for cosmetics and supplements import in Singapore.

Test marketing is a good policy as you can learn firsthand without spending too much money, therefore I think your company (GPC) is moving in the right direction to provide such a platform for Japanese companies to test market their product in Singapore.

What kind of products do SG companies look for from Japanese companies? What kind of information should they prepare and provide?

SG companies are always looking for unique or attractive products with reasonable price and quality. I cannot name a specific product from Japan but there are so many things that might be interested to consumers here.

For documents needed, it will depend on the product again. Generally, they would need to provide the company background and business brief, product information, supporting documents if there are special ingredients or patents etc. Singapore is strict on ingredients in Beauty and Wellness products. Some ingredients which are considered risky for consumers or unorthodox like human stem cells are generally not allowed in Singapore.

Which overseas markets do SG companies look at when expanding overseas? How do they find potential partners?

Different companies in the Beauty and Wellness industry target different markets according to their business objectives, products, consumer profiles and prices etc. Singapore companies are looking at exporting their products globally in general. However, Malaysia and Indonesia are the traditional export markets of most Singapore distributors. The more established companies, they would already have their own distribution channels and/or offices in these two countries. The general exporters will depend on whether if they can find suitable partners, importers or distributors in each country.

There are many ways to find a potential partner, through introduction, business matching, exhibition, direct sourcing etc. Cultivating a strong partnership may take a long time.

What are the common challenges SG companies face with doing business overseas or with their international partners and how are they often solved?

Singapore companies in the Beauty & Wellness industry are generally SMEs and have limited resources. The Singapore government provide support for Marketing and Market development to qualified Singaporean companies.

Korean beauty Vs Japanese beauty - what is more popular in SG?

Korean beauty products are more popular and perceived to be fashionable and cheaper than Japanese products. This is mainly because of the Korean movies and K-Pop culture, and they are good with branding.

What does SWAS offer to a business looking to expand out from SG, or to SG? Do companies get any support from the government?

SWAS can offer your products to our members and facilitate the introduction. If it is a Singapore Company, SWAS can facilitate marketing and business development locally and globally.

Singapore government provides support to Singapore companies to promote business globally. The government does not support import or sourcing activities in general.

What is SG’s position in the Beauty & Wellness Industry among ASEAN/ world? How do you perceive it will grow over the next decade?

Singapore has been an important showcase to other Southeast Asian countries for high quality, prestigious and luxury products. While its cosmopolitan society, modern and up market shopping malls and multinational tourism and business centre etc. attracts many visitors, Singapore being a single climate city with a small local population has within itself limited buying power.

Generally, the Beauty and Wellness industry is growing but the retail industry is uncertain and changing at this time due to COVID-19. Online sales has increased tremendously since COVID-19. Singapore will continue to be as an important showcase into the next decade for quality up market products. With the fast developments with ASEAN, business strategy may differ for each product and target market segment.

Possible to introduce our clients’ test-marketing products to SWAS members?

Yes, we can organise and gather our company members together if you are keen to hold a business matching session. You can do it in the form of a webinar, Zoom or Facebook Live session, etc. Members will attend if they are interested in Japanese products.

 

Please contact GPC if you have any questions regarding your market entry into Southeast Asia or vice versa, expand into Japan.
Our consultants will assist in advising the best solutions for your business.