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Sephora Turns to Nike E-Commerce Exec to Overhaul China Business

The LVMH-owned beauty retailer has struggled to replicate the success of its European and north American operations in the region, which has incurred heavy losses against fierce domestic competition.
The façade of the newly-renovated store, with two people walking in.
Sephora tapped Nike Inc.’s Asia e-commerce chief to lead its China operations. (Sephora)

Sephora tapped Nike Inc.’s Asia e-commerce chief to lead its China operations, as the cosmetics retailer faces the challenge of turning around its ailing mainland business.

Ding Xia, who spent the past five years as Nike’s vice president and general manager of e-commerce for Asia Pacific and Latin America, will take Sephora “into its next phase of growth” as managing director for Greater China, Asia president Alia Gogi said in a statement Monday.

LVMH’s second-largest brand by sales after Louis Vuitton, Sephora has struggled to replicate its US and European business success in China, amid intense competition in the country’s cosmetics sector and the dominance of major e-commerce platforms including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall. The brand faces a unique challenge in the mainland, where consumers’ desire to shop for everything online — from daily groceries to luxury items — means Sephora’s focus on expanding and improving its networks of physical stores may not work as well as it does elsewhere.

Investors have raised concerns about Sephora’s performance in the mainland, heightened by last month’s announcement it would withdraw from neighbouring South Korea — where it failed to take market share from local retail giants.

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Sephora has expanded to some 300 stores since entering China in 2005. The market is seen as key to hitting a target of €20 billion ($21.3 billion) in about five years, Bloomberg has reported. But it’s incurred losses since 2022, following strict Covid lockdowns that left people largely unable to shop in person and an ensuing economic slowdown, according to annual reports from skincare manufacturer Shanghai Jahwa United Co Ltd., which holds 19 percent of Sephora’s mainland business.

Ding — who previously headed HanesBrands Inc.’s China expansion and is a former president of local e-commerce giant JD.com Inc.’s fashion arm — will need to coax increasingly cautious shoppers into splashing out on face masks and cream blushes that can be found elsewhere, for less. Sephora’s relatively expensive offerings may put it at a disadvantage among the mainland’s increasingly price-conscious middle class, and a price war has broken out among beauty brands.

Bloomberg first reported in July that Sephora was looking for a new China head.

By Bloomberg News

Learn more:

Sephora: ‘Mothership of Modern-Day Beauty Industry’ Revels in a Retail Makeover

After departing the UK in 2005, the beauty retailer returned to London’s Westfield White City mall in 2023. More stores are to come, said Sarah Boyd, Sephora UK managing director.

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