If America is having a great retail meltdown, the Philippines is experiencing a beauty pull-out. It’s not exactly a crisis anymore. Foreign beauty brands come and go in the Philippine market, which is struggling to compete with more fast-forward Asian markets such as Japan and Korea. This 2017, the brands that pulled out are beauty giants—Lancôme and Shu Uemura.
Makeup junkies shed a tear upon hearing the news. Many went straight to Lancôme and Shu Uemura counters to hoard cult favorites before the last store closed.
And the last store did close this April. As a Power Plant Mall regular, I watched as Rockwell’s Shu Uemura shop spent their last few weeks holding a closing-out sale. The once bustling counters of supplies slowly dwindled until the last bottle of cleansing oil was sold.
Before saying sayonara, allow me to reminisce about how Shu Uemura was a big part of my magazine editorial training. In 2006 I was the assistant fashion and beauty editor of the now defunct OK! Magazine. I was cast into the world of brands, attending parties and events with fellow editors and writers. Back then, bloggers and online influencers had yet to be a powerful force. Magazine editors still held the reins in the fashion and beauty industry.
Shu Uemura had a lot of memorable product launches. I remember how the beauty girls and I would swoon whenever the handsome Kakuyasu Uchiide, Shu Uemura’s International Artistic Director, would fly in to Manila for a live makeup demo.
With the help of my colleagues from Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Preview, I slowly learned about cult favorites, makeup tutorials, how to choose headshot models, which makeup artists are the best in the country, and how to style products for a shoot.
I organized a lot of memorable photo shoots with the likes of Xeng Zulueta and Jigs Mayuga, two of our country’s top makeup artists who were once part of Shu Uemura under the mother ship, L’Oréal Paris Philippines.
Remember when The Devil Wears Prada was adapted into a movie in 2006? I recall chatting with Shu makeup artists about the scene where Gisele Bündchen’s character made fun of Andy Sachs. Why? She could not recognize the cult product that is a Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Oh, the horror!
Like Andy Sachs mid-book, I was no longer on a college girl’s budget. I was enamored by my new job in the fashion and beauty department. I started working on my grown-up makeup kit. Shu Uemura definitely made up a big chunk of my collection.
If you ask Shu fans for their favorites, the following often top the list: glow-on blush, eyebrow pencil hard formula, cleansing oils (the pink variant works best on my skin), and of course, eyelash curler.
The Last Few Years
Even when I moved on to become a freelance lifestyle journalist in 2007, I continued to feature their products in my articles for different publications such as BDJ Box and Cosmo.ph.
As the years went by, their marketing strategy shifted into more intimate, customer-centered events like secret sales and private tea parties.
In January 2017, as soon as I included the green Skin Clarifying Cleansing Oil in my Cosmo pantone list, I read the news that Shu Uemura is pulling out of the Philippine market.
Where To Now?
One of the major discussions in the beauty forums and blogs is where to get Shu Uemura now that it’s no longer in the Philippine market. I offer the following suggestions:
1. Via pasalubong or pabili (asking someone to buy for you). If you have a fellow makeup-obsessed friend traveling to Japan or other countries that carry Shu Uemura, ask if they have the luggage space and time to buy a couple of products for you.
2. Via personal travel. Buy it yourself when traveling to the US, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.
3. Online. There’s a limited stock of Shu Uemura items from trusted online shops like Beauty MNL and Sephora Singapore. Beware of fakes and the black market! Let’s hope they distribute to Sephora.ph soon.
4. Discover other brands. There are many other beauty brands—both international and local—that are worth spending your hard-earned cash on.