Zhao Han, a 28-year-old sales manager at a Shanghai tourism company, used to travel to Japan to buy duty-free skin-care products from Shu Uemura and Shiseido, both Japanese brands. But when China shut its borders during the pandemic, she found Winona an attractive alternative.
“Why should I pay three times as much for expensive foreign goods?” asked Ms. Zhao, 28. She said 70 percent of the products she bought in this year’s Singles Day’s sales were domestic brands.
As Winona and other domestic cosmetics brands surged last year, sales of top foreign competitors, such as Lancôme and L’Oreal, suffered. This year, during a livestream by the popular social media influencer Li Jiaqi, Winona sold more than 1 billion yuan (more than $137 million) of face creams and other products in just a few hours, Chinese state media reported.
Winona did not reply to a request for comment.
Some brands have leaned more explicitly into Chinese culture, a reaction to broader state-backed efforts to strengthen cultural heritage and tradition. Chicecream sold ice cream in the shape of Chinese roof tiles, and Florasis created makeup kits embossed with art that resembles Chinese landscape paintings.
When Rao Yong, 36, opened an online store selling traditional Chinese handicrafts in 2014, he considered it a hobby. Over time, as the party promoted the importance of Chinese culture, it grew into a full-fledged business.
“Chinese culture itself is extraordinary, but in the past, people may have chosen to ignore it,” he said.
Mr. Rao, draws roughly 5 percent of his revenues from Singles Day. His business this year has taken a hit from China’s lockdowns, but he is optimistic.