Most significant is the fact that purchases of deluxe facial care products that exceed RMB800 (€74) rose by 31 per in the second half of 2007, against a 28 per cent rise in the first half, according to latest figures by market research provider NPD Group. Equally impressive is the rise in the number of sales for the premium skin care segment - products with a retail value of more than RMB1500 - which in the first half of 2007 represented 10 percent of total sales for the market for facial skin care and 15 percent for the second half of the year. Purses at the ready! "The Chinese consumers are ready to spend money to maintain a more youthful appearance," said Edward Wang, manager NPD Group. "Chinese women believe that there is a direct correlation with the price and the reputation of the brand and the effectiveness of the product," he added. Skin care is by far the biggest category in the China beauty market, accounting for 70 per cent of total sales. Of this figure three out of every four products are said to be facial skin care products. Skin care dominates Putting these figures into perspective, the NPD Group's research shows that currently the second largest beauty category in China is make-up, which accounts for 17 per cent of sales, while fragrance comes in as the third largest category accounting for 13 per cent of sales. But Wang believes that if the current market conditions prevail, the high growth for the China beauty market will be maintained, with growth in the premium facial skin care category continuing to be a major driving force. "There are more and more advertisements for premium anti-ageing products in both magazines and on television," said Wang. "These adverts play a major role in the education of Chinese women and influence their spending patterns for skin care." China facial skin care mirrors US The evolution of the Chinese skin care market also bears a resemblance to that of one of the most developed markets in the world - the US. The NPD data points to the fact that in the US the premium facial skin care category grew by 11 per cent in 2007, contributing to a sustained double digit growth over the past 5 years. However, with the US retail market already showing distinct signs of a slow-down and many financial analysts predicting that this might have global repercussions, whether growth in the China premium facial skin care category can be sustained remains to be seen.