Premium Beauty News - What was the role of cosmetics industrial companies over the past few days of crisis?
Christophe Masson - Starting from mid-March, our economy quickly slowed down as the pandemic arrived in Europe. That is when our industry started playing a role on hand sanitizer manufacturing. The greatest names in the cosmetics world took action to produce this gel, but not just them, and it is a key point to be noted: locally, many SMEs spontaneously supplied hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare centres.
Then, so that the collective effort could go even further, the Cosmetic Valley issued a call for production which was answered by several dozens of companies. We opened a hotline and put hospitals in contact with manufacturers. That was most important, because none of them really knew how to proceed.
Premium Beauty News - Has it changed the relationships and cooperation among the different players?
Christophe Masson - As far as hand sanitizers are concerned, manufacturers were soon faced with a lack of supplies, like raw materials and packaging items.
So, new operating ways emerged. We observed new solidarity dynamics in our industry. The companies whose activities had been slowing down, but still had stock, sent it to those that could produce the gel. It created a sort of virtuous chain, and the Cosmetic Valley made this easier. A few years ago, we had launched a platform called Impact Plus to put plants with raw materials or pack items left in contact with potential users, like startups, who sometimes need small quantities. So, we gave all French cosmetics companies free access to the platform, and over 200 companies used the tool to register either as a manufacturer in need for supplies or as a stock supplier.
A real collaborative system among all companies in the sector was created, and both our companies and their employees were willing to get involved.
Premium Beauty News - Do you think things will be any different when it is all over?
Christophe Masson - It is tricky to give figures now on companies’ economic situation, but the good news comes from Asia: things have taken off again there. It is definitely a sign which helps anticipate “the after Covid-19”. But we still worry about the West: the crisis has been deepening in the US, and everyone knows how vital this market is for our cosmetics industry.
Premium Beauty News - Does that question the value chain and the dependence of our production on global markets?
Christophe Masson - As regards dependence, we have to put things into perspective. We are not in the same situation as other sectors, like medicines, where dependence is a critical issue. However, this crisis shows we need to intensify our efforts with manufacturers by supporting SMEs, so that they gain skills and innovate: this way, made in France products will be even more qualitative, safe and innovative. This is vital for us to stand out and preserve our leadership.
To boost our economy, we will also need to develop dynamics based on collaboration, solidarity, and responsibility, as can be seen with gel manufacturing. It also echoes the need for our industry to move towards even more CSR. On the global level, French companies are ahead in this field, and it will be a strong value and differentiation parameter for made in France products.
Premium Beauty News - What are the financial issues and what will be the future like for the whole industry?
Christophe Masson - We export all over the world, so if consumption slows down, our business just cannot do well, even if our companies are competitive on the global stage [note: the cosmetics industry is ranked second among net exporting sectors in the French economy – source: French customs, 2019]. We might also lose market shares if we boost our economy later and more slowly than our Asian friends. It is definitely a worrying issue. So, we need to start working ASAP on how we will proceed.
The Cosmetic Valley puts companies in contact with public authorities and supports them with the extensions of due dates and credit carryovers guaranteed by the State. Our role consists in making it easier for company directors to get through this real obstacle course.
But above all, we need to get ready for what comes next, i.e. convince the government and local authorities to consider French cosmetics as a strategic industry which needs help to quickly take off again. It is essential to implement boosting dynamics for this sector mainly composed of companies which are small, but export a lot.