Interview with Ms. Lyn Huang, Founder & CEO of BeiYang Import & Export (Shanghai) Co., Ltd
Since its foundation in 2014, BeiYang Import & Export (Shanghai) has been dedicated to providing spas and salons with exclusive treatment products and tools, essentials and disposables, clothing and toweling, as well as design and installation services for all professional needs. Meanwhile, it continues to develop featured products and programs in line with hotel characteristics and market trends, such as Lava Shells, Bamboo treatment, Himalaya salt therapy, Delsera (luxury waxing), all of which are inceasingly popular with customers.
Ms. Lyn Huang, the founder of BeiYang, has rich industry experience. Possessing a Major in Art and Design, Lyn worked for many years for a German company, The Most Wanted, in the area of product research, design and development before joining Ellisons, the parent company of BeiYang based in the U.K. in 2004. In 2008, Lyn founded Paris Bijan International Ltd in Hong Kong to supply products to China’s spa markets. Then she moved to Shanghai and established BeiYang Import & Export (Shanghai) in 2014, bringing more fresh air to the mainland China market. Now BeiYang’s products can be seen in many top hotel spas including Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf, Wanda Reign, St. Regis, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza and more. SpaChina interviewed Lyn, an outgoing and articulate lady, and asked her to share her views on the spa market today and the sustainable development of a spa solution provider.
What changes are taking place in the spa industry both in Europe and China? And what are the latest trends?
The SPA industry in China is witnessing rapid development. Now more hotels than ever before are partnering with BeiYang for opening support. On average, we are providing consultation services to one new hotel spa preparing its opening or one old spa which wants to update itself every two weeks. I am also glad to see that, with time, our clients and hotel managing teams have formed a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of spa.
The main trend in Europe is that the spa service procedures are becoming more and more simplified and routinized. And large numbers of spa goers now choose waxing or nail care. So most spas in Europe will provide such services in addition to body and facial treatments. I once had a spa treatment at CHA LING at The Peninsula Paris and found that their treatments and service procedures were very simple, not complicated rituals.
With regard to product preferences, European customers love fundamental skin care products while Chinese customers focus more on diverse functions such as anti-aging or whitening.
Regarding China and Europe’s spa industry, what are their strengths and shortcomings respectively?
As mentioned above, there is no big difference. Maybe the only difference is that European spa was born much earlier while China’s spas have prospered only in recent years. However, we are now experiencing very rapid growth, which is surely quite good news for us.
China’s spa industry is growing faster and faster with continual innovations. With cutting edge spa products and equipment, it makes more customers fall in love with this healthy lifestyle. But the challenge here lies in training. Due to insufficient training, many therapists lack professional skills and fail to flexibly apply the therapy theories to different treatments. This is what BeiYang keeps working on and making improvements.
European spas place emphasis on solving customers’ problems with simple manipulations and basic treatments instead of sophisticated rituals. The shortcoming is that the mature state of the industry makes development slow. Spa owners show less passion for renewing treatments and services. Besides, partially due to the economic growth slowdown, most spas in Europe no longer strive to offer luxury pampering. Instead, they focus more on basic yet effective ways of healing and health improvement and thus become more accessible to the public.
Which groups are the main consumer force for China’s spas at present?
It depends on the positioning of the spa. Luxury hotel spas such as The Sukhothai has a group of high-income customers who are savvy and demanding because they have a lot of overseas spa experience and thus have certain criteria and requirements. They care about product brand and the spa environment. Then there are some urban hotel spas such as Waldorf Astoria Chengdu which mainly targets the white-collar individuals working nearby, so they will offer more spa packages combining body treatments and fitness options. Day spas and club spas see more visits from stay-at-home moms who prefer functional products and equipment for anti-aging and whitening, as well as nail care. They tend to pay attention to the brands of the nail products they use and the products’ influence on the body.
Why do you want to bring European spa concepts and services to China? How do you do it?
Our parent company in the U.K. is a leader in the spa industry. We have over 10,000 SKUs and 85% of them are premium products and brands from the U.K., U.S. and Australia which work with us as their agency, such as the sun tanning equipment from the U.S., skin doctors from Australia and CND who have only four agents worldwide. Besides, we have our own training schools. I myself also have a lot of opportunities to get to the industry leading products.
The products and services which I want to bring to China are surely the ones I have experienced and liked myself. Every time, I would first do a lot of market research and consult with industry professionals to examine whether the products will be a fit for and develop well in China’s market. As everyone knows, it is a must for any skincare brand which wants to come to China to have certain certificates. So we will get these certificates and then get in touch with trustworthy hotel groups because they focus more on the quality and customer experience that the products can deliver.
Is there any difference between the spas opened today and those ten years ago?
Firstly, spas today normally have less time for pre-opening preparation than before. That means they need more professional support rather than simple supply of goods. Usually when a project is started, the spa manager of the client hasn’t yet arrived to take up the office. The proprietor side doesn’t put much time or energy into the spa either. Therefore, suppliers need to be more involved in the whole project, such as going to examine the site, offering professional instruction, and communicating about the logistics. We don’t want to see the spa opening time being postponed.
Besides, spas today use more equipment in treatments than before. We encourage the usage of quality equipment because they can guarantee safety and comfort. Today, more and more spas begin to pay attention to the prevention of occupational disease. That’s why our spa tables are all adjustable in height. We have many other tools that are designed according to scientific data to prevent therapists from getting tenosynovitis so that when they deliver heathy services to the guests, their own health can be maintained too. Such tools are very much welcomed by spas today.
Do resort, hotel and city spas have different requirements for BeiYang’s products?
Yes, there are some differences. Resorts usually have their exclusive characteristics, say their DNA. So when they are opening a spa, they focus more on the accessories. For instance, the design of the footbath basin or the tray must be consistent with the resort’s whole style. Meanwhile, they would spend more time seeking the “right” essential oil. BeiYang has invested in an essential oil factory in Shenzhen, so we are more able to meet the resorts’ demands of creating their own essential oil.
Hotels, especially chain hotels, usually have a fixed preference in line with the group’s standards. They clearly know what brands and products they need. They are more standardized.
For day spas, it depends on what spa philosophy they want to convey. If their target customers are top white collars in the CBD area, then they will prefer comparatively faster and more convenient services and products so that they can deliver effective treatments as completely as possible within a limited time.
Nevertheless, all of the spas want to offer guest the things that most suit them and have the best sales performance based on their capabilities.
What kind of experience and benefits does BeiYang want to deliver to the spas and spa-goers?
The first label I want to give to BeiYang is “keep pace with the times”. That means we need to keep learning hard. In addition to the experience we have accumulated in the European market, we now focus more on China’s culture and the habits and preferences of the customers here. We hope to create for hotels their exclusive spa programs by integrating cultural elements so that the customers will have more treatment options which touch these points. We also extend our services to design, the display of disposable products, and more aspects that will influence the customer experience.
If our energy and time permit, we hope to launch more seasonal projects with the hotels. For example, we have recently launched a Himalayan salt therapy program with Waldorf Astoria and Ritz-Carlton because we found that people today show increasingly greater interest in salt therapy. We will soon launch a chocolate program to cater to the valentine theme. During the Spring Festival, we will introduce certain treatments that help with digestion. We have made all these efforts in order to let the hotels understand our capability in program development and our sharp market perceptions.
What are the challenges and opportunities for spa industry development in the future?
I hold a quite positive outlook to the development of spa industry. I am happy to see that our peers, clients and the whole industry are showing greater respect for professionalism and tolerance for new tools and treatments. I feel the main challenge in the industry is the instability of products and personnel. In order to solve the former, we have invested in factories in China to produce products that meet the local demands and retain the same quality as our UK manufacturing as well. Therefore, we can have a continual stable supply of products and quicker development and manufacturing of new products. Besides, personnel training should never be neglected. The industry is in need of truly professional training institutes for support.