Article Originally Published in Exploration Online Magazine: http://exploration-online.co.uk/article.php?id=54
Everyone knows that China exports to the world. They make everything. From cheap to top of the range electrical goods, clothes and even food, ‘Made in China’ products feature prominently on our shop shelves, homes and everywhere in between. Everyone also knows that the UK is in economic trouble, partly due to how much we import and how little we produce and export. So it seems unlikely that China would be importing en-masse from the UK, right? Wrong. Well, in the aromatherapy market that is.
Shirley Price Aromatherapy Ltd seems an unlikely candidate for exporting mass produced goods to China. It’s a tiny firm consisting of five employees based in an old warehouse in Hinckley (hardly a town with a reputation for being at the forefront of British innovation). Yet this small business exports tens of thousands of its products to China and the Far East every year, and demand is growing.
Why then, if these products would be much cheaper to produce and purchase in the Far East, do Chinese consumers turn to UK produced goods? Especially in a market (complementary medicine) that they themselves have an international reputation for? According the Shirley Price’s Managing Director (and, as it happens, my Dad) Ian Brealey it’s all about quality control.
When it comes to domestic production and sales the Chinese cosmetics industry has distinctly lax regulations. When dealing with natural chemicals like essential oils, wealthier Chinese consumers don’t want to risk potentially harming themselves by applying domestically produced products to their skin and would rather turn to far more rigorously regulated foreign imports. As Mr Brealey says of Shirley Price Aromatherapy’s best selling Organic Camomile Eye-Drops ‘if you are going to put something in your eyes, you want to know it’s 100% safe!’.
Another key factor in Shirley Price Aromatherapy’s success in China is the well recognised brand name. The company has been around since the 1970’s and has a wide variety of well regarded publications and how-to guides associated with it. However, one of the results of this is that they sometimes encounter Chinese retailers selling fake Shirley Price products. Knowing the miniscule size of the company as I do it is almost amusing to think that someone somewhere in the Far East thinks it’s as worth while creating knock-off versions of S.P. Aromatherapy products as fake Versace jeans. However for residents fake cosmetic and complementary medicinal products can be a genuine issue.
This phenomenon isn’t just associated with Shirley Price Aromatherapy; savvy aromatherapy and cosmetics retailers across the UK are cashing in on the Far Eastern demand for quality assured products. It’s a dramatically expanding market and one that British retailers are beginning to take advantage of in expanding numbers.
By the way, for those who I’ve now put off buying ‘Made in China’ cosmetic products sold in the UK, don’t worry, Chinese exports are thoroughly tested, it’s only those made and sold in the Far East that can be a little bit dodgy.