China Beauty Expo’s Industry Insights team recently had the chance to sit down with Ye Huimin, founder of the Asia Hair Masters Association (AHMA), to discuss his outlook for the region’s fast-evolving hair products sector. A 40-year veteran of the Asia hair and cosmetics industry, Ye is also the , Deputy Secretary-General of the Chamber of Commerce of Cosmetic and Cosmetic of China Federation of Industry and Commerce and founder and Chairman of Hong Kong’s Lian Damai Industry Group, the leading global supplier for hairdressing mannequins for the education market.
CBE: Ms. Ye, tell us a little bit about your outlook for the hair industry and the role that AHMA plays
“Since 1976, I’ve watched the growth of Hong Kong’s hair industry and involved with many haircare groups. However, none of Hong Kong’s hairdressing associations had any real plans or vision for the industry. Then, in 2010, I began organizing a hair industry association that really fit development in China and Asia.”
Ye explained that AHMA seeks to promote the art of hairdressing and hair industry education in order to professionalize the industry. During the first three years that it organized competitions, AHMA faced serious challenges, because hair professionals had little faith that an association could bring much value to the industry. In the face of this resistance, Ye considered giving up, but he persevered. Now, six years later, Hong Kong and Taiwan hair professionals are gradually beginning to recognize the value of the organization.
This past May 18-19, AHMA and China Beauty Expo co-organized the Shanghai Hair Salon Festival at the Shanghai Pudong New International Exhibition Center. As the first event of this type, the show brought together five leading hairstyling institutes (Dai Bai, Asuka, Rui Court, Fashion Modeling, and Tefu Sosi) to showcase everything from hairdressing skills to styling and hair style trends.
“The process of promoting cooperation among these five elite schools was not easy. All five are competitors in a very fragmented market, so creating points of common interest and alignment was difficult. But this is also one of the very important roles that AHMA plays,” revealed Ye Huimin.
CBE: Ms. Ye, what do you see as points of commonality among the major players in China’s large and highly fragmented hair industry?
Actually, there are still fairly few points of connectivity or commonality in the mainland market. The China market is geographically large and diverse with very few, if any standards. Whether discount hairdressing outlets or high end salons, the outlook for the sector has been particularly optimistic. Across the industry, all of the players are hobbled by traditional pricing structures, cash-card payment systems, and discounting approaches. Unfortunately, this has resulted in margin erosion and high levels of customer turnover.
Here, AHMA is working to enhance transparency in the industry and find some common approaches to steering competition in the industry. “We look forward to building a very professional exhibition for the hair industry – one that will showcase technology and products, but also provide education and standards for the future of the industry,” Ye said.
CBE: Ms. Ye, can you share what is happening to the hairdressing sector in Hong Kong?
In 2000, an online survey revealed that Hong Kong had more than 20,000 hairdressing practitioners. By 2014, that number had dropped to 15,000. This shrinkage reflects the overall stagnation of the market. Although Hong Kong is not behind in terms of technology, the mentality of the industry and operators tends to me self-oriented and small scale. This is one factor that hinders the type of development that we see in Taiwan or mainland China.
CBE: How has the Taiwan hair industry evolved differently from Hong Kong or mainland China?
Within Greater China, Taiwan has seen some of the biggest changes during the past five years. Looking back several years ago, Taiwan’s hair industry was in serious decline and hairdressing practitioners and industry associations both faced a confusing market landscape. However, the Taiwan industry began to awaken with a shift in attitudes. During the last two years in particular, the Taiwan industry has begun to unite to improve the overall market, and we now see much greater resilience in the industry and better levels of education than it has had for the past decade. The hairstyling segment of the industry has become increasingly important with a role that potentially more meaningful than similar practitioners in skincare or make-up markets. Because of the importance of professionalism in the hairstyling segment, AHMA has been strongly committed to introducing an international perspective to empower stylists.
Ye notes that with the “sudden emergence” of younger millennial consumers, younger fashion hair stylists are increasingly in demand, but they also face serious challenges. This young generation of hair stylists will have longer careers, and helping them to develop and transform their mindsets is a major mission for AHMA during the coming five years.
CBE: Can we get an accurate picture of the industry’s future by looking at salon operations?
Looking to the future of China’s hair industry, Ye Huimin feels that there isn’t a single viewpoint or consensus here. There is a very wide spectrum of trend expectations among participants in the industry, and these divergent views aren’t meaningful. But the direction and the growth of China’s hair industry will depend heavily on how salon operations evolve and develop. If during the next 10 years, China’s hair industry can really make improvements in operation, create opportunities to connect, and innovate, then China has a strong chance of emerging as the world’s leading salon market.
CBE: Ms. Ye, thank you very much for your insights. We’re really looking forward to seeing what new and innovative initiatives that you and the AHMA will share with us during the upcoming 22nd edition of the China Beauty Expo in May.