Speeches and cream on foreign tour

Updated: 2013-04-13 01:40

By XU JUNQIAN in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Speeches and cream on foreign tour

A customer chooses Pehchaolin, a skin-care product, at a supermarket in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.LONG WEI / FOR CHINA DAILY 

Skin care cream Pehchaolin is making a comeback in China after Peng Liyuan, China's first lady, presented an assortment of products from the previously out-of-fashion brand as State gifts during her foreign tour with President Xi Jinping last month.

The cream, sold in little blue and yellow tins, is now riding a wave of popularity among young, trendy women who used to favor foreign brands.

"Sales have doubled, or sometimes tripled, since the visit," said Zhang Lehua, the sales manager of Shanghai's Beijing Department Store.

Founded in Shanghai in 1931 and once considered a luxury among young women, Pehchaolin, sold for less than 5 yuan ($0.81) a tin, was the first homegrown skin care product in China.

For decades, the cream was a must-buy for many Chinese families and a favorite among domestic movie stars and celebrities before the influx of foreign beauty products in the late 1990s.

"Spring is never a good season for selling creams, but this year, it's all different," said Zhang, 55, adding that he is now worried about "how to get his salespeople, mostly middle-aged women, out of the idleness they have been accustomed to for decades".

Shop assistants inside the cramped store woke reluctantly from their afternoon naps to serve customers, mostly girls, who came to snap up what they called "the first lady's cream".

Zhang said his store, which opened in 1977, is one of the few places — if not the only location — in Shanghai that sells the "rejuvenated cream".

He said the store was on the brink of closing down before the frenzy, which he thinks will last a long time.

Meanwhile, online stores that sell Pehchaolin cream are also enjoying an unprecedented boom.

Figures from the official Pehchaolin online store showed that more than 2,500 tins of the cream have been sold in the past 30 days.

While the Shanghai-based company was unavailable for comment on Friday, the online customer service representative, who responded half an hour after the inquiry from China Daily because "there are too many customers waiting to be answered", said nine out of 10 customers asked about the same gift package given by Peng.

The owner of a store that specializes in selling made-in-Shanghai skin-care products on Taobao, China's largest online bazaar, who refused to be named, said she has enjoyed an "at least a 10 percent increase" in the past month.

"I cannot prove the increase is related to the visit of the first lady, but I believe the attention has pushed many people to be at least willing to try domestic beauty products," the store owner said.

Other made-in-Shanghai products are also benefiting from the interest, especially skin care brands such as Gongdeng almond cream.