Background of the Industry
Beauty industry is one of the key service industries in Hong Kong. In the early stage of industry development, beauty salons were relatively small in scale, mostly small shops either located in a shopping mall or occupying an upstairs flat. With the growing concern about one's personal appearance, the beauty industry has grown significantly in recent years. Large beauty salon chains mushroomed alongside the emergence of a wide variety of beauty products and equipment in the market. Beauty salons also expanded their range of services to include training programmes in addition to beauty care treatments and the sale of beauty products. As a result, there are numerous training providers offering a vast variety of courses for novice beauticians. As beauty is a highly skill-based industry, professional training is imperative to its development. Traditionally, novice beauticians have been trained as apprentices, and recently some companies have adopted international standards in their training programme. As a result, the standards of the education and training programmes vary to considerable extent. The industry's need for qualified manpower and enhanced on-the-job training is increasingly pressing in the face of economic restructuring where emphasis being shifted towards services industries. With the gradual emergence of a knowledge-based society, more effective flow of information and more sophisticated consumers, the industry has seen a burgeoning demand for professional beauty services. In the long run, it must work towards internationalisation and professionalisation as well as improving the skills level of beauticians and enabling them to integrate theory with practice, so as to enhance the quality of beauty services in Hong Kong.
Current Status of the Industry
Since Kong Kong's economy took off in the 1980s, the beauty industry has sustained exponential growth. It has been one of the fast growing industries in the city and has achieved a pre-eminent position in Asia's beauty industry. Beauty salons in Hong Kong have been expanding in scale with diverse business types, which mainly include large chains, brand shops and franchise operations. According to the Census and Statistics Department, there are more than 5,000 registered beauty-related establishments, which engage more than 40,000 practitioners including beauticians, nail artists, make-up artists and beauty product salespersons. The existence of a large local market also contributed significantly to the development of the industry. Lately, there has been further development of beauty care services and cosmetic products, as well as growing popularity of newer beauty services such as nail care. Furthermore, the growing male market for beauty care and slimming treatments has opened up additional market opportunities.
The beauty industry encompasses a wide variety of work, which can be caterogrised into facial care, body care and make-up. Facial care mainly includes skin care treatments and client consultation on skin care routine and products. Body care includes manicure and pedicure, hair removal, massage, aromatherapy as well as equipment-aided body treatments such as those for slimming. The category of make-up covers day and evening make-up as well as professional cosmetics, including stage, photography, film and special effects make-up services.
Apart from make-up and facial care, slimming services have come into vogue in recent years. The history of slimming services in Hong Kong goes back to the early 1980s when international slimming centres began to appear in the city. The 1990s saw a gradual increase in popularity of slimming services which continues to this day, resulting in the burgeoning of slimming centres large and small and a wide range of slimming products launched in the market.
The emergence of the spa market has gradually changed the face of the beauty industry. Spa treatments require longer service time than conventional beauty services. In those treatments, various materials such as water, light, music, colours, aromas as well as a wide range of massage techniques are used therapeutically. Since specialist knowledge and techniques are required of spa practitioners, the expansion of the spa market will boost the demand for relevant training programmes.
Recent years have also seen a significant development of health care services as a result of the growing awareness of the importance of health care and balanced diet. Those services include massage therapies and Chinese medicine treatments, as well as nutrition and physical exercise programmes. As in other sectors of the beauty industry, customers are increasingly expecting quality services that are capable of enhancing wellness and providing them with a safe, reliable and natural beautifying experience. Therefore, there is still ample room for development in the health care sector.
The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) has created new opportunities for the beauty industry in Hong Kong. In recent years, the beauty industry on the Mainland has experienced rapid growth. It is reported that the average annual consumer expenditure for the beauty market on the Mainland runs at RMB 100 billion with around 500 million potential consumers per year. Mainland consumers have great confidence in Hong Kong's beauty services and products. The high reputation enjoyed by our beauty industry has facilitated its entry into the Mainland market. Since 2004, around 200 beauty establishments in Hong Kong have set up branches in Mainland cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou. In view of its prospective continued expansion, the beauty industry in Hong Kong anticipates a growing demand for professional practitioners working across the border.
Since beauty and cosmetic shops are among the most visited attractions to Mainland tourists in Hong Kong, the introduction of the Individual Visit Scheme has also benefited the beauty industry in the city, especially the beauty care and cosmetics retail sectors. In view of the great confidence and popularity among Mainland customers that the industry has won, the introduction of the Scheme as well as the rising demand for cosmetic products as a result of the increase of Mainland tourists, the cosmetics sector has high hopes for further expansion by opening up new retail outlets in Hong Kong. As more and more long-standing global beauty brands have opened their beauty shops in Hong Kong, the industry expects a significant increase in the demand for professional beauticians.
Since the quality of beauty services has direct bearing on consumers' health, their confidence in the services depends on a high level of specialist knowledge and skills of beauty practitioners. At present, not all practitioners are up to standard in terms of skills. While most practitioners are only provided with short-term on-the-job training enough to enable them to handle general routine duties, theoretical knowledge and technical skills of beauty treatments are mainly acquired by taking a wide range of courses provided by local beauty training schools and obtaining relevant international qualifications. However, industry-wide standards are still lacking for technical skills training. Although new technologies and equipment are introduced to enhance service quality of the industry, practitioners have, in general, been slow to take advantage of them because the training they receive is mainly based on prevailing industry standards and requirements. Consequently, practitioners only have the operational knowledge and skills requisite for day-to-day operation of certain equipment, while lacking a complete understanding of other relevant equipment and theories.
With rising economic prosperity and a stronger emphasis on living standards and quality of life, the development of the beauty industry in Hong Kong has become increasingly diversified. The industry is also geared towards providing professional and comprehensive services as a result of rising standards of beauty services across the world and growing consumer expectations of their quality. Rapid technological advancements and changing market demand have made it necessary for beauty practitioners to equip themselves with knowledge of newly developed techniques and equipment through continuous learning. By enhancing their professional skills and competitiveness, they will be able to offer services of the highest quality.