Will Shiseido win back Chinese customers via its new bottle refill service?

Overview: Shiseido today launched a used bottle refill program for the brand’s iconic Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate product, the first time the service will be introduced outside Japan. Customers can take their used Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate bottles to stores, where the receptacles will be cleaned and refilled in a hygienic environment. Consumers need to schedule an appointment online to access the service.

Netizens’ reaction: Shiseido’s lack of recycling options for used bottles has been called out by some customers. On Xiaohongshu, users posted pics of their empty bottles and asked how they could repurpose them, demonstrating rising awareness of conscious beauty in China. Now customers have a solution.

Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate is one of the best-selling products of Shiseido. Photo: Shiseido

Verdict: Shiseido unveiled its China Growth Plan when the group celebrated its 150th anniversary in November 2022, commiting to sustainable growth. The group stated it would promote beauty product refills in response to consumers’ surging environmental awareness. The beauty giant aims to provide refills for more than 150 products in the Chinese market by the end of the year.

The brand’s new refill service aligns with the Shanghai Pudong New Area Cosmetics On-site Personalized Service Management Rules, trial guidelines that are intended to standardize cosmetics services and took effect in August.

The refill program will not only help the brand reduce its carbon emissions from transportation and packaging, but also attract more offline traffic to its stores, enriching consumers’ brand experience and consolidating the business’ connection with consumers.

Shiseido’s performance in China is still being impacted by “consumer pullback on Japanese products due to the treated water release,” according to the company’s financial report for Q3 2023

Given the strategic significance of the Chinese market, the group aims to improve its resilience and profitability there. However, negative consumer sentiment toward Japanese beauty brands casts a shadow over the brand’s ambitions. It will need to keep a close eye on local regulations and emerging opportunities to turn around its performance.