Swedish Make Up Stores Expand in Thailand

The Swedish makeup story started little over a decade ago in the Swedish capital Stockholm. Former model Mika Liias (born in 1968) opened a make-up school in Sweden but quickly discovered that his students were unable to find good quality products at affordable prices. This triggered Mika Liias to seek out manufacturers, who were able to carry out his unique makeup ideas. His vision was to create a makeup store with great service and beautifully packaged top quality products. Last but not least he wanted to create a world of colours. When his ideas were carried out his students started using the products and recommending them to others and soon his brand was in high demand.
 In 1996 a basement on the street Drottninggatan in Stockholm became the home of the first Make Up Store.
 Since then the brand has come a long way and today Make Up Store is one of the fastest growing companies in Scandinavia, with as many as 150 stores worldwide.
 Make Up Store reached the Singaporean market in 2004, as the first Asian country, and not long thereafter, Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia followed suit. Today the company has eight stores in Thailand, three in Singapore, two in Malaysia and one in Vietnam and Indonesia. A growing number of Asian consumers are becoming aware of Mika Liias unique products, especially in Thailand where the products have gained much attention and not least popularity. Despite this, it seems that only a handful of people in Thailand are aware of the fact that Make Up Store is a product of Sweden.

Great future potential in Thailand
Since 2005, only a year after the opening in Singapore, women in Thailand have been able to pamper themselves with Make Up Store’s colourful and innovative products. According to Mika Liias it is especially emerging markets like the one in Thailand that represent great future potential due to the country’s growing interest in fashion and cosmetics, as the middle income increases and a growing number of women step into working life. Therefore there are great long term rewards to gain for the company here.
 To promote the brand in Thailand the people of Make Up Store worked a lot with in-store promotional activities, events, and traditional marketing strategies. The company got a good start and has gradually managed to get reach expected brand recognition.

An identifiable concept
Make Up Stores around the world follow the same core values and store concepts. Greta Sjöbom, PR Director at Make Up Store, is sure this is one of the key reasons behind the company’s success.
 ”Make Up Store offers top quality products at reasonable prices, that fact combined with excellent customer service and consistency of brand values and philosophy, influencing every part of the concept from packaging to store design, makes us visible, recognizable as well as accessible and this is something customers globally seem to appreciate and value.” But still it will take some time before Make Up Store is a household name in Thailand as it is in Sweden, she adds.
 Even though the company has gained great popularity in Thailand it was in Singapore that Make Up Store experienced the quickest success. “Singapore was an instant success, due to fantastic local franchises with local market knowledge and personal drive and motivation. The local retail market in Singapore was also at the time of entry at a more advanced stage,” Mika Liias says. 

New challenges overseas
As a result of Make Up Store’s commitment to the Thai market, the company has been faced with new and different kinds of challenges. Licensing of cosmetics and hygiene articles has been very problematic, time consuming, expensive and complicated. The procedures have often involved complex forms to be stamped, complex lists of ingredients, certified copies and so on – a lot of complicated information to be reported, Mika Liias explains. Also general cultural differences within the Make Up Store management team and store staff have been an obstacle. But nevertheless the company have been able to manage this through an extensive educational and mentorship program monitored from Sweden, on site training and by giving the employees access to language training provided by the Make Up Store. Knowledge about communication and corporate procedures has been passed on with respect to Thai corporate traditions and values, Mika Liias adds.
 Even though different challenges and cultures often mean new market strategies Make Up Store hasn’t made any significant changes in order to fit in overseas. “Make Up Store’s concept isn’t tweaked to fit local markets. One of our core values is to have all products available at all points of sale and therefore it is very important with accessibility and assortment. Today’s trends tend to be global and only have minor differences. They tend to occur after or before each other at different points in time and locality,” Mika Liias says. 
 One thing Make Up Store has done in order to meet demands on the Asian market is to develop a new product called Brightening Serum. The serum quickly became a bestseller in especially Thailand. The Brightening Serum evens the skin, removes dark spots and retrogrades the skin tone
Financial downturn an opportunity
At a time where lots of markets are at an economical downturn there are still optimistic forces to find especially within the Make Up Store, where the financial crisis has been considered more as a possibility for growth than as a setback.
 “During these hard times, with a global financial crisis we see possibilities and opportunities to grow and develop from the Asian markets. We have high hopes of new market entries, improved sales and larger market shares,” Mika Liias says. In his opinion the Asian market hasn’t reacted like the market in Europe. 
 The fruits of the financial crisis have primarily consisted of access to more cost efficient rental agreements. Like access to better locations at a better price, which have had the spin-off effects as cost efficiency and better flows of customers, improved sales, increased market shares and brand value.
 Altogether the company has experienced a very low decrease in sales, actually almost non-existing, Greta Sjöbom says. “In some cases the sales have even increased since the initial phases of the global financial crisis. A lot of retailers even those with strong concepts have been struck by lower sales or corporate downsizing which has given more opportunities for companies like us, whom have confidence in the strength of the concept and continuous innovation within the product line to keep us one step ahead,” she explains.
 Even though Make Up Store is founded on the idea of franchising, the franchise model is not used in Thailand. In Thailand all stores and counters are monitored within the Make Up Store Corporation.
 At the moment Make Up Store is looking for suitable business partners and master franchisees in Japan, China and Hong Kong. The company is also planning on opening a new store in Indonesia this autumn.

Makeup from Make Up Store:
You can find The Make Up Store eight places in Thailand: Central Festival (Phuket), Central Festival (Pattaya), Central Lad Prao (Bangkok), Central World (Bangkok), Siam Center (Bangkok), Siam Paragan (Bangkok), The Mall Ngam Wong Wan (Bangkok), Zen Department Store (Bangkok). 

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