In digital age, Fujifilm turns to skin care

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 September, 2010, 12:00am

Japan's Fujifilm has helped create millions of pretty pictures, but facing the loss of its traditional film business the company has gone a step further.

With digital cameras expected to soon relegate film to the museum, the Japanese brand has embarked on a quest for beauty of a different kind - a line of popular skincare products.

Fujifilm will launch the range in Hong Kong and on the mainland on Monday after having sold the products through 4,000 outlets in Japan since 2007.

Hong Kong and the mainland will be its first overseas markets for the line.

'Skincare products will be a new cash cow for us,' said Stanley Sun Tao-hung, executive director of China-Hongkong Photo Products Holdings, which has been a distributor for Fujifilm camera products since 1968.

Sun said a flagship shop for Fujifilm's skincare products would open soon in Central, while on the mainland, the company would rely on the internet to generate sales.

Sun said that while most people would be surprised at a film manufacturer in the competitive beauty market, the two businesses were connected.

A major component of film was collagen taken from cow skin and collagen was also widely used in many skincare products.

'In photo processing, the aim is to control the oxidation of the photo to prevent the colour from fading and the same technique can be applied to slow the ageing of skin. Nanotechnology can also be used to make skincare products that are absorbed easily.'

Fujifilm's move away from photo film technology was part of the 76-year-old group's efforts to widen its income base.

At its peak, about 300,000 rolls of Fujifilm would sell in a single month in Hong Kong but that figure has dropped to about 10,000 rolls, Sun said.

Fotomax, which prints more than 50 million photos a year in the city, says 97 per cent of its print orders now come from digital camera and only 3 per cent from film.

Sales of photo film plummeted to HK$7 million a year from HK$70 million in the heyday. Instant film however has helped offset the decline in traditional film.

Fotomax has also shifted away from relying only on photos by expanding to the printing of documents and putting digital photos on T-shirts, in calendars and in photo books intended as gifts.

'We are still achieving profit growth even after photographers turned to digital. The key is to shift to new products and services that match the development of the digital camera,' Sun said.

He hoped that within a few years a third of Fujifilm's sales would come from its skincare products.

'I am confident in the new business line as many women are interested in skincare products,' he said.

But Fujifilm does not plan to abandon the manufacturing of photo film altogether. 'Some photographers still choose to use film,' Sun said. 'We may need to offer more services and products for customers but we don't need to abandon film.''