TOKYO: An increasing number of major cosmetics firms in Japan are heightening their emphasis on male consumers, as they seek to tap in to what is regarded as a major possible area of future growth.

In the US, Procter & Gamble, the FMCG giant, has previously announced its intention to increase its focus on this demographic, which has long been neglected in favour of female shoppers.

Manufacturers in Japan are facing even more substantial problems, both in the short-term, as the country's economy witnesses a heavy contraction in the downturn, and in the long-term, as a result of its ageing population.

Nivea-Kao launched the first skincare product developed specifically for men in the Asian nation in 2002, with Shiseido following suit in 2004, and Rohto Pharmaceutical doing the same in 2006.

Shigesato Kobayashi, of Shiseido, said "men are becoming a lot more interested in making themselves beautiful, and they are buying cosmetics, paying attention to their hair and overall grooming."

"In Japanese society, it has become normal for men to buy products that used to be considered feminine and when the economy recovers we believe we will see even more men investing in the way they look."

Kobayashi added that the mass market segment is "moving really fast for companies such as Oxy and Mandom, but the prestige sector is faring quite well still as well."

Overall, it is estimated that sales of male skincare products reached ¥17.6 billion ($194m; €130m; £117m) in 2008, a figure that constituted an improvement of 16.9% when compared with the previous year.

A survey by Mandom, another cosmetics firm, also found that a total of 59% of male consumers in Japan now regularly use facial wash – reaching a high of 85% among university students – compared with 48.8% who said the same in 2005.

Alongside an increasing number of brands, a number of male-focused salons, the biggest of which is the Tokyo Beauty Center, have been developing their operations across the country.

Similarly, a range of department stores have established counters offering advice to these consumers.

Data sourced from Independent; additional content by Warc staff