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This week we caught up with Stephanie Evans from Oasis Beauty in Oxford. Stephanie shared their experience of overseas markets.
ENC: What markets do you currently export to?
SE: We sell all over the world via our own website and Australia and US are growing markets.
But the China market now accounts for a significant portion of our sales, so it’s a really important part of our business. We sell through trading partners in Auckland, so it’s all cross-border e-commerce. They order from us, we ship to Auckland and then the end consumer in China orders via them and they ship it over to China. So we are not directly involved after the product is shipped up to Auckland.
It’s a simpler, less labour intensive way to sell to China as we are using an existing channel. But, crucially for us, it also means that our product can be sold in China without having to undergo animal testing. Skincare products directly exported and sold through physical retailers have to be animal tested.
ENC: Why did you start exporting?
SE: It was driven by consumer demand. We didn’t actively go out to find China, instead Chinese consumers actually came to find us. We were getting phone calls in the office asking where they could buy our products in China.
ENC: What have been the main challenges?
SE: One particularly tricky bit is finding the right partner and you also have to be careful about pricing. So, for example, you’re asked for a price for 10,000 units. But then someone asks what better price you can do for 20,000 units and before you know it your premium brand sunscreen is being sold at a bargain price and it devalues your brand. That was a trap we fell into, but managed to get out of.
Culturally it’s also a steep learning curve. So, with China the animal testing thing really surprised me, Chinese consumers want their skin products tested on animals, they have had some major scares with skincare products there and they want that reassurance. So we don’t promote our policy of not testing on animals in the same way as we do here.
ENC: What advice would you give to others thinking of exporting?
SE: Don’t assume anything.You have to really understand your customer and their culture. What is important to them?
And, it’s also important to understand that for some industries you simply have to export if you want to survive. For Oasis we are competing with global brands that can be shipped to New Zealanders in two or three days. It’s a global market and we have to be part of that.