- Wigs from Xuchang represent over half of global market.
- This year it's difficult to collect hairs due to the pandemic.
- The industry may face an opportunity to transform and upgrade.
“You know that Michelle from Africa? First Lady, her wig was made in our village.” Although someone reminded her that Michelle is an American, Zhou doesn’t think there is a difference. All that matters is that the most famous black female in the world wears a wig from Xuchang. Right now, however, the wig industry in Xuchang is having a hard time.
Over 300,000 people in Xuchang work in the wig industry, which makes up over half of the worldwide market. Every two seconds, a wig from Xuchang is sold somewhere. Due to Covid, however, this niche industry is blown away. The market leader, Rebecca Fashion, reported a net profit 90% less than the same period last year. You can only imagine how it’s much worse for smaller companies.
Liu owns a wig factory in Xuchang, the world’s largest wig processing base. He’s proud that Chinese people’s hairs are the best to be processed into wigs compared with those from other countries, which also makes them the most expensive. Chinese hairs are almost three times more expensive than those from southeast Asia. Still, long hairs are hard to get. This year, due to the pandemic, it has become extremely difficult to collect hairs.
Zeng has been a hair collector for over ten years. In his eyes, this year is the hardest. At this time last year, he was traveling around villages in Cambodia and Vietnam collecting hairs. Even though Zeng only pays a fifth of the price compared with Chinese hairs, local women from 18 to 60 years old would still line up to sell their hairs.
According to current Chinese regulations, unprocessed human hairs are classified as “solid wastes,” which is prohibited to be imported. There had always been some underground channels which Zeng used to carry the hairs he collected into the mainland. Now, these grey channels are closed due to the Covid and Zeng has to abandon his plan.
But the needs stand. In Sandton City, South Africa’s high-end shopping mall, shop owner Agona is desperate. With international containers stuck at harbors, he’s out of his best-selling Chinese wigs. Usually he gets his products from local distributors. Seeing that they’re not able to fix it, he’s decided to get in touch with providers in Xuchang directly.
On the other side, factories in Xuchang have been trying to sell their wigs on international online shopping platforms. But they need to sort out the language problem. They offer $900 to hire customer service representatives, which is quite a lot there, still there aren’t many candidates. It’s the first time that these middle-aged villagers realize how important it is to know English. Some of them even signed up for online English courses, practicing “Africa” and “Cambodian” at home in their free time.