‘Not just a China brand’: Firm behind Summer Palace lipsticks confident on international expansion

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

 Catkin is pushing to expand its global footprint. ©Catkin
Catkin is pushing to expand its global footprint. ©Catkin

Related tags: China, catkin, Makeup

The company behind Chinese make-up brand Catkin is pushing to expand its global footprint as it believes there’s a growing demand for its products overseas.

Catkin is most well-known for its collaboration with the Summer Palace, which featured a range of regal lipsticks inspired by Empress Dowager Cixi’s favourite residence.

The viral collection was launched in March 2019 and was quickly sold out on Tmall within 24 hours. According to reports by local media, the company sold more than 4,000 of the ‘empress-style’ lipsticks during that time.

Today, Catkin is one of the leading cosmetics brands in the domestic market. In addition to its online business, it has over 6,000 counters in various shopping malls and beauty stores across the country.

Jane Chow, sales director at Colorite Cosmetics, the manufacturer behind Catkin, claimed that the company has seen dramatic growth since it launched its Chinese heritage-style designs in 2018.

“Since 2018, we have grown by several times, maybe even up to 10 times because of our lipsticks. We can easily sell 100,000 lipsticks every month,” ​she said.

Chow explained the brand’s success lay in its precise positioning in the saturated Chinese market.

“Catkin offers products with good quality and luxury packaging but at a competitive price. By positioning ourselves as an affordable luxury is how we compete with other bigger and stronger brands on the market.”

Global aspirations

Thanks to the success of the Summer Palace collection, Catkin also gained brand awareness overseas. This prompted the Colorite to seek growth in new markets.

The company now has over 10 distributors in other countries including Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Russia.

“The overseas business is small but it's growing very fast. We are seeing more and more foreign consumers responding well to our products and we are confident we can expand into more countries,” ​said Chow.

However, she admitted that expansion would be especially difficult for the brand because of the negative connotations that follow locally-made products.

“There are many people that won’t accept Chinese products because they think ‘made-in-China’ means its cheap. [Colorite] has over 21 years of experience in the make-up industry. We have good technical knowledge, good quality, good design. We want people to see that,” ​said Chow.

She added: “Catkin is not just a China brand now, it’s an international brand. There are more and more foreigners from Asia, even Europe or the US buying our products. This means our products can meet the global expectations and standards of the cosmetics market. This is not an easy achievement because we have to have good control from the point of getting the raw materials.”

To aid its expansion, the company has been putting more resources into raising brand awareness on social media platforms like Instagram and engaging Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to help promote the brand to new consumers.

Chow said the company would eventually try and break into the US and European markets.  She added that this would be the company’s biggest challenge yet.

“It’s not easy for a Chinese brand with so much Chinese cultural designs to enter Europe or the US but it's important that we try. We are selling well in the Chinese market but it’s good for us to enter new markets because the brand and the manufacturing side can promote each other. It’s very helpful for us to take the information we learn from overseas back to the domestic market.”

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