Wigs without technical content and cheap? You're mistaken

Release time:2023-09-13 09:57

Wigs without technical content and cheap? You're mistaken.

Why is it that Chinese wigs are at the center of the stage when overseas consumers need wigs? 

If you still think that domestic products are cheaper, you're gravely mistaken. It's common for wigs to be priced over a thousand yuan, and both low-end wigs and high-end wigs priced at tens of thousands of yuan have good sales overseas. 

How can such a small wig sell for such a high price? It's not that the businesses are trying to make a quick buck. In fact, the profit margin for wigs is not that large. The cost of a wig priced at 3000 yuan is about 2400 yuan.

The production process for high-end wigs is quite complex, with nearly 20 steps involved, not including quality inspection. Both the materials and labor are costly.

The materials used in high-end wigs are not the synthetic fibers that generate static electricity, but real human hair. In the past, people from Xuchang would go to remote mountainous areas in Yunnan to purchase long hair from ethnic minorities. Later on, wherever there were countries with long-haired people, they would show up. During the peak, there were even 20,000 people transporting thousands of tons of hair from all over the world to Xuchang's small workshops.

However, in 2017, unprocessed human hair was included in the "Catalogue of Solid Waste Import Prohibition," turning into "foreign garbage," which further increased the cost of wig materials. According to the Securities Times, at the beginning of the 21st century, human hair was priced at 200 to 300 yuan per kilogram, but in 2021, a 60-centimeter long braid of Chinese hair was sold for 6,400 yuan per kilogram.

As for the labor-intensive processes required for wig production, a large part of them were previously outsourced to North Korea. The same-sized hand-tied wig only costs 10 to 20 yuan in North Korea, but it is almost 10 times higher in Xuchang. However, the impact of the pandemic has led to a sharp rise in labor costs.

The materials come from Southeast Asia, while the labor-intensive processes are outsourced to North Korea. Xuchang, Henan, has become the brand and the goods are exported to the Americas, Africa, and Latin America. In the past period of time, seemingly inconspicuous wigs have actually become a major international project.

So why is Xuchang known as the "capital of wigs"?

As the largest wig production and export base in China and even the world, Xuchang achieved a per capita GDP of 78,000 yuan in 2020, ranking fourth in the entire Henan province.

In 2021, Xuchang exported goods worth 21.27 billion yuan, with a year-on-year increase of 79%, the highest growth rate in the province. The largest contribution came from wig products, with exports reaching 15.16 billion yuan, accounting for 71.3% of the total.

Xuchang has been in the wig industry for hundreds of years. It is said that during the Jiajing period of the Ming Dynasty, people in Xuchang started making wig props, mainly for theatrical performances. During the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty, Xuchang businessman Bai Xihe and German businessman Hunter formed a partnership and mobilized locals to purchase hair and sell them to Europe after some processing. This was the starting point for Xuchang wigs sweeping the global market.

For a long time, Xuchang remained in a rudimentary processing commercial model for wigs, and the production technology and sales network were controlled by Japanese and South Korean companies, who took away about 70% of the profits. In the 1990s, Xuchang wig companies like Rebecca started developing their own brands, gradually reversing the situation through joint ventures with foreign companies and expanding overseas marketing networks.

Today, Xuchang has nearly 300 wig export companies, employing over 300,000 people. With a resident population of just over 4 million, it means that 1 out of every 15 people in Xuchang is involved in the wig export business, and wig exports account for nearly 30% of the national total.

Now, the Chinese wig brands, Rebecca and Ruimei, have the highest market share in the domestic wig market. However, their main targets are still the international market.

According to salesperson Shi Guoqiang, who sells wigs in Africa, there may be 500 to 600 people from Xuchang living there, and it's easy to run into fellow townspeople because every large-scale wig company in Xuchang sends employees abroad.

Behind the various styles of wigs on the heads of African beauties lies the history of a city's struggle spanning hundreds of years. Perhaps we can see a glimpse of how domestic products, and even Chinese culture, can go global through the wig industry in Xuchang.