by Xinhua writers Gao Wencheng, Xu Yongchun, Zhou Rui
PARIS/SHANGHAI, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a mask and a white coat, Gao Yu is not a hospital doctor but a cosmetic formulator in the laboratories at the L'Oreal China Research and Innovation Center in Shanghai, home to the headquarters of the French cosmetic giant's China unit.
As China's COVID-19 prevention and control efforts have paid off, Gao returned to work in early February, like many of her colleagues working for L'Oreal China's factories, distribution center and beauty stores.
In Paris, Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of L'Oreal Group, holds a daily telephone conversation with his team in China. He believes the situation in China will "improve pretty quickly and maybe even more quickly than we thought before."
"Once the epidemic is gone, there will be a bounce-back of consumption and economic development in China," Agon said. "China will again resume its very strong trajectory."
L'Oreal achieved a 15-year record-high growth of 35 percent in the Chinese market in 2019. Noting that "China has been the fastest growing country for L'Oreal worldwide," Agon said China is probably "the most important market in terms of growth" for the French owner of the Lancome and Kiehl's brands.
Agon said the Asian country is not only a large market for L'Oreal products, but "a fantastic place in terms of innovation," citing its research and innovation laboratories in Shanghai.
With a team of more than 400 researchers dedicated to product development, "China is definitely a center for innovation, for new products, and for a new digital transformation," Agon noted.
From the perspective of the global supply chain, Agon said "the advantage now of China is not just a question of cost. It's a question of talent, creativity and innovation."
According to Fabrice Megarbane, president and CEO of L'Oreal China, the Shanghai center is closely linked to the cosmetic giant's other research and innovation centers.
Some of its research has spread to Western Europe and the United States. "China can innovate for China and for the world," said Megarbane.
The company's headquarters and Research and Innovation Center in Shanghai, as well as its plant in Suzhou, have gradually reopened, with strict precautions in place.
Megarbane said the safety of employees is their "utmost responsibility and priority." Before reopening its facilities in Shanghai, local authorities coordinated with nearby residential communities and buildings.
After its door opened, L'Oreal adopted an online and offline strategy. Sales staff disinfect the hands of every customer who enters and take other protective measures.
Ying Yongyi, national chief makeup artist for Shu Uemura China, a brand under L'Oreal, showcases beauty products on video app Douyin, known as TikTok outside China.
"When customers watch the live stream and get interested in the product, they can place an order directly online," he said, thereby eliminating the need to visit the store and come on contact with potential virus carriers.
Though difficult to assess the exact impact of the outbreak, Megarbane said "the fundamentals of China's cosmetic market remain."
"The beauty market will bounce back" after the epidemic, he added.
The China unit of L'Oreal Group, has donated 5 million yuan (about 711,000 U.S. dollars) to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation to purchase urgent medical supplies like face masks, protective eyewear and clothing, the company said. Several of its brands have donated hand and facial hydration creams to show their support.
"What really impressed me right now in China is the strong measures taken by the Chinese government to contain the epidemic," Agon said. "They're impressive and effective."
Agon lauded China's "fighting spirit," saying the country and its people have been resilient in the fight against the coronavirus.
"L'Oreal will always be on the side of the Chinese people," he said. "We have great admiration for the way they are addressing this difficult situation."
As for future plans, Megarbane said, "the short-term impact of the epidemic will not sway our firm commitment to China and our endeavor to usher in an even brighter future together with China."