CHINA Podcast: Story in the Story (3/27/2019 Wed.)

CHINA

Podcast: Story in the Story (3/27/2019 Wed.)

People's Daily app

00:54, March 27, 2019

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From the People's Daily app.

And this is Story in the Story.

Barbers and stylists aren't the only ones who make their living via the hair industry. A little-known city in China had its roots in the business too. 

Xuchang, Henan Province is said to be the birthplace of wigs and weaves. Its people spent decades making wigs and other hair products. 

It had been a century-long business. Xiaogong villagers had collected hair ever since the Qing Dynasty. After generations, they took things to a new level. 

With the urbanization process underway, many young people in the village moved downtown in pursuit of better careers. Some of them joined the local wig manufacturing giant, Henan Rebecca Hair Products. 

The company stretched its assembly lines out of the country to Nigeria, Ghana and Cambodia. 

Today's Story in the Story looks at how the wig-making business in China has taken off to where Chinese wigs are now very much in demand around the world.

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The Rebecca Group in Xuchang, central China’s Henan province, displays its products on July 28, 2013. (Photo: IC) 

Industrialization and globalization have raised the threshold of the hair industry. 

“Labor costs in China are increasing. Establishing a production line abroad can help solve the problem. It also shortens the market cycle and saves on shipping costs,” said Hu Liping, Rebecca's Secretary of the Board. 

In one individual workshop in Xiaogong village, combing double-drawn hair is Zhang Guiqin's daily work. 

“I don't need to worry about the crops, the machines can take care of them. I would rather do this, because it can make a lot of money,” Zhang said. 

More than half of Zhang's village's 900 households are involved in the hair industry, either by sorting it out or selling it. Some routinely made more than a 10 percent profit. 

From the technology of synthetic hair production to sewing skills, Rebecca participated in writing the industry's world standard. 

The era of collecting hair domestically is almost over. The company moved its upstream supply chain to India. 

“It's an industrial upgrade,” said Zu Lei, Rebeca's Wig Material Purchasing Office Director. “Originally, we collected hair and sold wigs just in China. Now we see the chain from a global perspective. Meanwhile, the quality of the items has also improved.” 

The company's response to China's Belt and Road initiative has also boosted employment in all of its 11 international branches, as the market goes wider with evolving demand. 

As mentioned, in Africa weaves and wigs are an almost daily accessory, which is where hair brands produced by Henan Rebecca are very popular. 

Hair is big business in Africa, and people there are said to spend up to six billion US dollars annually on wigs, weaves and braids.

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Part of the factory that employs 9,000 workers, mostly women. (Photo: CGTN) 

The products are made from synthetic fiber and real human hair, most of it imported from India. 

The company has invested heavily in R&D to keep up with changing trends all over the world, and as a result it has been able to cater to a diverse market. 

In Africa, products range from as low as $10 per piece of synthetic hair to hundreds of dollars for human hair.‍ 

China remains its biggest high-end market. Pieces retail for as high as $800 in its 300 stores across the country.‍ 

Rebecca now produces 20 brands of weaves and wigs, and exports to more than 40 countries. 

China-made wigs are in big demand from global customers, according to data released by Alibaba Group's cross-border online shopping unit, Ali Express. 

The data shows that a wig is being sold on Ali Express every two seconds and the annual sales volume of wigs has reached billions of yuan. 

Compared to 2017, the sales of wigs on Ali Express saw rapid growth of over 50 percent in Europe and even more in Africa last year. 

In the meantime, the sales volume of anti-hair loss products like essential oils, shampoo and hairline concealer powder in 2018 saw an increase of 150 percent compared to 2017. 

The most customers of wigs on Ali Express in terms of numbers come from the United States, followed by the UK, France, South Africa, the Netherlands and Italy. 

The daily sales of wigs produced in Xuchang, Henan province reached 40,000, with a yearly transaction of 1.5 billion yuan, ranking first on Ali Express. 

Ali Express is currently the biggest cross-border B2C e-commerce platform in China and is operating sites in 18 languages covering 220 countries and regions around the world. 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Brian Lowe, Lance Crayon and Da Hang. Music by: bensound.com. Text from CGTN and China Plus.)


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