Through decades of product innovation, Arimino has maintained the style and sensibilities unique to Japanese culture.
The Japanese chemical industry has suffered when it comes to base chemicals due to regional competitors being able to lower their costs. However, Japanese chemical manufacturers remain leaders in highly functional and specialized chemicals such as cosmetics additives or fragrances. Can you give us the strengths and weaknesses of the Japanese chemical industry today, especially when it comes to the cosmetics sector?
There are two different approaches one can take to evaluate the cosmetic chemicals field as an industry and the companies that operate in it. There is a good side which our company expresses. First of all, we were established in 1946, and have been building our portfolio in the domestic market here in Japan. That is one of our main strengths as a company. We have been satisfying the needs of our domestic customers who use our products in their daily lives. We as a hair care company, have been working in research and development, manufacture the professional-use products, and sell them to hair salons through distributor. We are a long-lasting company in this industry and have been able to win the trust of our customers. We try to satisfy all the sophisticated needs of them. Even small packages need to be precise and detailed, and perfectly laid out for the customer. We focus on the quality of the products that we provide to them, and go the extra mile despite the costs, to ensure that we can satisfy each customer’s specific needs. That has resulted in the strong client base that we have built up over the many years since our establishment.
On the bad side however, it can be difficult to be successful in overseas markets due to overfocusing on the domestic market. Some companies in other industries, such as automobile, may be able to expand into overseas markets. However, companies in the cosmetics field have been too focused on the domestic market. There are positive and negative aspects, but we try to focus on the positives and promote our products domestically.
In fact, in the next 15 years, one in three Japanese people will be over the age of 65, which presents two major challenges for firms. The first is a labor crisis and the second is a shrinking domestic market. What are some of the challenges and opportunities this demographic shift is presenting for Arimino?
The overall decrease of the population and increase of the elderly itself is a huge social issue for Japan. The shrinking market makes it harder to promote products as there is less market exposure when there are less people. However, on the other hand, it is a good thing that the working environment is now changing.
First of all, with regards to the elderly, as we get older, we need to take better care of our bodies. In this age of the 100-year life, people are active in various fields in their 60-70s, and conscious about their hair style and appearance. Our hair products for example, provide the care that our customers require by extending the life of their hair for as long as possible. Our company solves many problems in that segment, and we will continue to do so for as many years as possible.
Generation Z is also getting trendier and more sophisticated in their demands. There are many different needs coming from the different layers of society, and we need to be able to satisfy the needs of all age groups. These young people are also changing the working style. The coronavirus became a game changer in many ways. Japanese people used to work by the clock from nine in the morning to six in the evening. However, people needed to work from home due to the virus. This meant that they no longer had to dress officially and were able to change their hair colour if they wanted to. Currently, people’s views on hair colour are changing, as they have more freedom to choose different colours and styles. In this regard, the coronavirus had a positive effect for our company, and as society changes, we are changing to meet the needs of society. Our slogan is “We are continuing efforts of new joy in beauty, beautiful people, and development of the industry”.
Since our inception, one of the things what we have been respecting is that we try to catch the value and joy from the viewpoint of human life. We produce a product through dialogue, while listening to the needs put out by age, and human.
We know that the COVID pandemic had a huge impact on physical retail stores, with changes in lifestyle such as staying at home and social distancing contributed to this decline. Yet at the same time, we saw online sales jump by 30% in 2021, making Japan the fourth largest e-commerce market in the world. How is your business adapting to take advantage of this growth in e-commerce?
When it comes to sales, the coronavirus had a good effect. As you mentioned
As a new trends resulting from coronavirus in the world, there was a big shift from sales in stores to e-commerce and digital sales. People were buying things online as they could not go to the stores during the peak of the pandemic. However, we do not primarily deal directly with shops. Rather we deal through specialized trading companies that act as distributors. They provide our products exclusively to the beauty salons nationwide. That is our sales channel. Although we would like to see more sales from e-commerce, we will continue to operate our traditional sales channels, as our relationships with distributors have been very close over the years.
Koike, the governor of Tokyo, urged people to stay indoors during the pandemic. This was positive for our industry. For hair salons to survive, they started to introduce more reasonable pricing for people looking to get their hair or cosmetics done in the salons. People also began to try our products at home and began to understand more about hair treatments without having to go to the salon. We still see this occurring in the industry today.
A hair or beauty salon is not just a place where you get your cosmetics done. When I visited the Tohoku region one month after the Great East Japan earthquake that happened in 2011, I saw that customers were still going to them. There was a shortage of supplies and they had to take water from a hot pot. However, the owner of the salon told me that people were going there not only because they wanted to have their hair done, but also because it was a way to relieve the stress of what had happened in the area. It gave people an opportunity to speak about what had happened. People go to the salons to talk to their
Dyeing one’s hair has been a popular trend in recent years, and in 2019, 64 million people used hair colouring products. One of your standout products is the Colour Story Admio, which is a hair dye that combines seven kinds of plant derived ingredients. How is the Colour Story Admio superior to more conventional hair dyes?
Color Story Admio
First of all, we have 3 hair color brands, all of them can express a variety of hair color while reducing hair damage. All of them are professional- only products for using hairstylists in salon. The first is ADMIO, which is aimed at the younger generation who choose trendy colors for themselves. We have a huge amount of color variations, we can make hair color look like a foreigner without bleaching. Moreover, it is greatest feature is less damage, overwhelming luster and long-lasting color. It has tremendous support from hairstylists. Also, 7 antioxidative botanical extracts, resulting in vivid colors with less damage.
The first generation of the Colour Story was launched in the late 1980s and was popular in the early 1990s. The vast majority of Japanese people have black hair. Damaged hair such as white hair was the primary target for the users of the product. Its utilization was as a hair manicure. You could apply the paste on your hair and this reduced the chemical damage. As you said, it is a combination of seven kinds of plant derived ingredients, and therefore it is natural, and does not contain a lot of chemical compounds. Inheriting that concept, the current product is also natural, and does not contain a lot of chemical compounds. It lessens the chemical damage to the user’s hair. That was the original concept behind this product. We think that one of the reasons Color Story has long been a popular brand of hairstylist is because we are constantly updating the quality required by the time.
The second is Color Story Prime, which elevates the expressiveness of gray hair color. With power of water gives hair dyeing capacity from deep inside the hair strands, it dyes evenly to the core and gives a sense of transparency and shine.
The third is Asian Color Fes, which is high brightness and strong coloration, realized with the pure color concept. It expands the range of expressions for hairstylists.
Later, in the early 2000s, we introduced the Colour Story Prime which was the next generation of the product and a more up-to-date version. Previous to that, we introduced our Asian Colour, which is a more high-end product that also caters to the same segment. Asian Colour also turned out to be a popular product.
The Colour category combines two major products. The first is Asian Colour and the second is Colour Story. The Asian Colour segment is more for professional hair salons. It mixes bleach and applies colour. We currently have two Colour Story products, which are our Colour Story Admio and Colour Story Prime. Admio is aimed at the younger generation who can choose trendy colours for themselves. We have a huge amount of colour variations, especially for people who would like to look like a foreigner for example. They can change their hair to many different kinds of colours. The Colour Story Prime is aimed at the aging population to treat damaged hair, and turn grey hair to whatever colour they prefer. This Colour Story segment including Admio and Colour Story itself causes less damage to hair due to less chemicals being applied. That is why it is so popular.
Most people start with Admio and try different trendy colours. The colours tend to change from the core of the hair to the ends of the hair. When they find the perfect colour using Admio, they tend to then switch up to the professional type Asian Colour, and go to the professional hair salons. As the years go by, people tend to switch from Admio to Colour Story Prime which is aimed more towards the elderly population.
The reason for introducing our Prime segment was because the boom period for colouring was in the early 2000s in Japan. People were trying to be trendier and more fashionable, by dying their hair with different colours. However, they then realized that their hair was being damaged, so they shifted to more natural ingredients for hair colouring, such as the ingredients used in our products. Our Prime products have seven naturally derived ingredients. Its official launch was in 2005, and it is based on water colour. It is able to sustain the natural colour of the hair for a longer time, and as I have mentioned, it causes less damage to the hair than other products.
Our Admio product was launched in 2017 and is aimed at people who like to change the colour of their hair. Just like our other products, it causes less damage to the hair. It is also oil derived and not just plant derived.
Do these products also cater to the overseas market?
Yes, they are available in Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thai, Myanmar, Australia, Hongkong, U.S.A..Our products sales there have been increasing, so we would like to target the other Southeast Asian countries as well.
There are many products today that strip hair of its natural oils, which can accelerate damage. In the US, a survey conducted by the beauty company Head and Shoulders showed that 91% of adults do something every day to their hair that damages it in some shape or form. Arimino has developed a unique complex ingredient called the Helix Shot which helps repair damaged or weakened hair. Can you give us a breakdown of the Helix Shot and how it enables the repair of damaged or weakened hair?
As for the Helix shot, our hair care brand “COREME” diminish trouble of women’s hair, and lead it to desired hair. There are three different types of damage for hair. The first is natural deterioration, which is when the colour fades and the hair turns grey. This naturally occurs as people grow older. The second is the damage that occurs due to hair colouring. The third is perm damage which occurs when a perm is performed on the hair. Our Helix Shot is aimed at solving the natural damage that occurs to hair. It targets the alpha helix, which is the core or stem of the hair. Hair is not just the outside or aesthetic part that we see. Our Helix Shot treats the inside core of the hair itself with naturally derived ingredients that sustain the health, beauty and structure of the hair for a longer time. That is the concept behind this product. Also, the new series of “COREME REPAIRTIVE” (2022 Sep.) which cares the second and third chemical damage.
The Helix Shot involves amino acids being applied to the hair, which is a change from the more conventional use of seratin to heal the core of the hair.
The Helix shot is decomplex of sugar and amino-acid, it repairs damaged hair from inside without hardening hair, gives hair silkiness and moisture. This is a change from the more conventional use of keratin.
Amino acids have been proven to be more natural and flexible when it comes to the treatment of hair. Our product has had a good effect on the industry and has been performing well.
Our solution to the damage caused to the hair through colouring is our 18MEA. This is the name of the compound that acts as an artificial cuticle. The cuticles are located on the side of the hair and support the core of the hair. We conducted our research and developed this 18MEA compound in-house. It is now included in many of our products.
Our product line-up has many variations.
One more thing, “SHERPA” which is hair care product launched in September 2022, cares chemical damage from colour/perm timely and achieve high quality design.
The hair salons must choose which compound to use for each specific customer. We can produce and introduce many different solutions for hair treatment. Our aim is to decrease the damage that occurs during hair colouring and hair perms through the use of these different treatments and compounds. By having a large variation,
By 5 multi-function items that work in the ideal place at the ideal time, the hairdressers can choose the ones that suit best. Our Sherpa product sustains the hair before and after chemical treatments. It sustains the natural aesthetic of the hair, as well as providing treatment for the hair itself. The women who come to the hair salons have many different hairstyles. They may have curls, perms, or straight hair. Therefore, they ask for different kinds of treatments. Our Sherpa product helps throughout all of these processes, without losing the natural effect, and it also causes less damage. The name of this product originated from the “sherpas” or guides who take you to the top of the mountain. We got our inspiration from the word, as the hairdresser’s ultimate goal is to help you have perfect hair.
What role does collaboration and co-creation play in your business model? Are you currently looking for any overseas partnerships right now?
Our company’s sales channels are mainly domestic. We have distributors who work closely with the beauty salons that our products are used in. This is the case all over Japan. We have been close sales partners with our distributors for many years. They are the ones who introduce our products to the end user. Likewise, if we were to consider exposure to foreign markets, it would have to be more or less the same sales strategy. However, it can be difficult to meet the expectations of local overseas beauty salons, as they already have established selections of products from other parts of the world. Therefore, it is difficult as a Japanese company to promote our products to overseas beauty salons. These beauty salons would need to be convinced to start using our products. If they like our products, they could become a stable client base for us.
We have distributors who work closely with the beauty salons that our products are used in. This is the case all over Japan, also in overseas. We have been close sales partners with our distributors for many years. They are the ones who introduce our products to the end user.
However, the ideas would be sometimes limited within the same industry. We think cross-industrial collaboration could be one of the important tool which generate additional value. We are exploring opportunities to collaborate with, regardless of domestic or overseas. Collaborate with those who have different culture and viewpoint, we learn from it and enhance development of human resources.
It can be a long process. However, as I mentioned earlier, our products have already been introduced in Taiwan. We are now aiming for the Asian market and are trying to find sales partners outside of Japan to do so. However, each country has different restrictions and regulations that we must adhere to. All these things must be considered before making a decision to enter new markets. To understand these new markets, we need to carry out market research, gather data and talk to academics in these countries before we can decide to enter these markets.
Moving forward, which countries or regions have you identified for further expansion to, and what strategy will you employ to do so?
There is no particular country that we are focusing on right now. However, if we are going to employ strategies to target foreign markets, then it would have to be with a trustful company that shares the same values as us and the same passion we have towards the beauty industry. My uncle is currently the chairman of the company. He is passionate about beauty salons and the hair and beauty industry itself. All of our employees share the same values and philosophy as our chairman. They have the same passion and understanding of the industry. Therefore, if we were to establish a partnership overseas, they would have the share the same principles as we do. As I mentioned, we are looking at the Southeast Asian market through our operations in Taiwan, and we are open to working with the right partner to do so.
Over the last 10-15 years that men’s beauty is an increasing sector. How are you taking advantage of this growth in men’s beauty?
Spice is a hairstyling product for men that we introduced in 2000. It is a long seller hair wax.
wax for men’s hair treatment. There was good feedback from the market, as we released it not only through our conventional sales distribution channels, but we also started selling it in drugstores. Men in Japan, especially young men, started to use it and it became popular. It was so popular in fact, that prospective employees would tell us in interviews that they actually used the product. Back in the day, Spice was a big hit for us, however, hair salons lost some business as people could just go to the drugstores to buy it.
Spice product for men
Recently we have been seeing changes in the industry. In the past three years, beauty salons in Japan started introducing menus for the hair treatment of men. We believe that this could be a result of exposure to Korean fashion, with many new trends starting there. Men in Japan also watch Korean dramas or like K-Pop, for example. This is the reason why Japanese men started treating their hair properly and going to hair salons.
Imagine that we come back four years from now and have this interview all over again. What goals would you like to have accomplished by then?
I have 3 future goals. First of all, establish a high degree of trust with employees, to offer great flexibility in the tie of changing in people’s values. I want to improve the working environment so that our employee to participate actively for a long time. My second goal is to promote the productivity of beauty salons and support to makes beauticians happy by product and approach. My third goal is committed to develop beauty industries by working closely with the beauty salons and distributors. Around 50 years ago, we were operating at a deficit and were about to become bankrupt. However, it was the beauty salons and distributors that saved us and helped us to overcome that difficult period. The very existence of them is very important.