It was the Brazilian wax job of foreign exchange. The Pakistani rupee was stripped of its value to sink to 150 rupees against the dollar. International luxury make-up brands would now be even more expensive.
Worst hit by this change are the small-time buyers of high-end brands who have them bulk shipped to Pakistan. “I have to pay an extra Rs30,000 to Rs40,000 on my new Rs150,000 shipment,” said online makeup seller Hina Khan, who is based in Karachi. “The initial cost has increased with the dollar rate and we also have to pay shipment costs and taxes.”
Up until a month ago, the dollar was at Rs144. That meant that a popular Mac lipstick shade, $18.50 Ruby Woo, which used to cost Rs2,664 will now cost Rs2,775. For individual items perhaps the price increase doesn’t pinch as much but for anyone buying in bulk, the margins have drastically changed.
Bottom lines will be affected by the commissions that Pakistani businesses will have to pay their wholesalers abroad. Sonila, a 34-year-old entrepreneur, sells makeup online through live videos on different Facebook groups in Karachi. “The duty was earlier fixed at 15% per product but now it has gone up and we are unable to buy the same quantity,” she said.
The makeup import business has been lucrative. The Vault in Karachi started off as an online store, but has grown into two shops in shopping malls. They now have a US office that ships to Pakistan. “We have to revise or increase our rupee prices more often,” said owner Mubashir, 32, who has been in the business for roughly five years. “It doesn’t affect the buyers a lot since we cater to a niche market. But yes, in the long run, it does discourage our buyers.”
Many people in Pakistan sell via Facebook pages. Some focus on drugstore brands and others on more luxury specialized ones. The ones on the luxury spectrum include Tarte concealers, foundations from Nars, Fenty Beauty primers, Victoria’s Secret perfumes, Morphe eye shadow palettes and Glitter and Glow Liquid Eyeshadow by Stila. Other swear-by products that may not be cheap but last long to give you more bang for your buck include: Huda beauty lashes, Kat Von D eyeliners, Urban Decay Naked palettes, Jacqueline Hill palettes, Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara, The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer, Real Techniques brushes, Beautyblender sponges, Tarte and Nars concealers, Benefit Benetint, Laura Mercier translucent powder, Mac make-up setting spray, NYX lipsticks, Colorpop lipsticks, Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz.
Individual customers usually buy online, have it sent to a relative’s address and either wait till someone can bring it to Pakistan or have it couriered. If their packages come through the Pakistan Post they will have to pay more for that too. One woman said that she had a package of ColourPop lipsticks that came to Rs6,000 but the customs tax on it came to Rs14,000 when she came to collect the package at the post office. It made no financial sense when the tax was higher than the product so she sent it back and asked for a refund.
“The hike in the dollar rate has reduced buying power,” explains Nida Atif. She has been running a venture dealing in branded makeup, named Glow ’n Glam, for three years. “They keep complaining about the high prices. My profit has shrunk and the market is too competitive.”
The change in the rupee has come just two weeks before Eid, when demand is high.
“As the prices increase with the dollar, many of these sellers start selling dupe and expiry makeup just to keep their business running,” says 24-year-old Aliya. It would be hard for any buyer to distinguish between original and fake products by just looking at their pictures or joining live sessions.
The challenge will be for online entrepreneurs to set prices amid a fluctuating dollar as buyers might think twice before putting their money where their mouth is.
With additional reporting by Syeda Sarah Hasan.