The first stop on my Asia trip this May was Seoul, for Cosmobeauty 2018 trade show (check out my trade show review here) but also to do my customary store research. This is something I do whenever I travel; even if I have visited the country/city before.
I visit as many health & beauty retailers as possible; at least one chain per distribution channel: drugstore, perfumery, department store, organic store (or equivalent) and whatever specific retail channel a particular country might have.
And then I spend hours in-store until the security staff and/or sales personnel is starting to give me suspicious looks ; ). I’m checking out the products that are displayed on the shelves: are there any interesting new beauty launches – any new key ingredients? Product types? Packaging designs?
Does the retailer have any own label brands and if so, what do they look like? Is there just one own label range or a diversified portfolio of proprietary product ranges? What is the overall percentage of domestic brands vs. international brands? And what do the retail chains look like; do they offer any in-store services, features or activities to make shopping in a bricks ´n mortar store more exciting?
I also take pictures, usually discreetly because retailers in Asia often forbid you to photograph their products or store interiors. Case in point: Chicor and Olive Young (more info in the article!); in one particular Olive Young store I was told no less than three times (by three different staff) that taking photos was not allowed! Although I am a law-abiding citizen by nature I tend to disregard these strictures and as a result I’ve become very good at clandestine photography : )
This was my fifth visit to Seoul and after the first couple of days I was struck by how rapidly the Korean beauty retail market is changing at the moment. And it all started less than two years ago.
There are three (!) new beauty retail chains on the market which offer a European-style perfumery multi-brand concept (and for the Korean beauty market this is is nothing less than revolutionary – again, more info on this in the article!) while drugstore market leader Olive Young is hastily refurbishing its stores across the capital in a scramble to keep up with all of the new competitors.
One week was barely enough to visit all of these new retailers and because so much is happening in the Korean beauty market at the moment, I think it is time for an overview article on all of the new beauty retail chains (with plenty of high-res pictures, of course).
Click on the link below!
[EDIT 11/5/2018 – Following a major relaunch of the Olive Young store brand across Korea, and the opening of several new (and considerably larger) Olive Young outlets in Seoul, the Myeong-Dong Lifestyle Experience Center was completely remodelled in line with Olive Young’s new look. The store looks entirely different now, with a new interior design and a different brand portfolio; more style and less hallyu. You’re therefore about to take a step into the Olive Young chain’s retail history ; )]
On my very first evening in Myeung-dong area I was randomly walking along the streets, enjoying the very special Myeung-dong evening experience: crowds of shoppers pushing along the narrow streets, music blaring from every store and restaurant, sales staff standing outside the beauty stores announcing special offers to try and lure customers inside, food stalls everywhere, more crowds, more noise…..
Then I drifted past an Olive Young store, one of the many branches that Korea’s leading drugstore retailer operates in the central Seoul area. This particular outlet looked different though, so I drifted right back to check it out. The store was much bigger than the average Olive Young retail space; new, stylish and sophisticated-looking – and indeed, as it turned out this is a new Olive Young retail format. The “Lifestyle Experience Center”, opened in 2012, is an attractive beauty concept store with an integrated café area and a strong hallyu flavour.
Greetings from Seoul where I’m winding up my spring trip to Asia! I spent the last two weeks in Tokyo: enjoying the city, exploring different neighbourhoods and doing some article research (I am writing a retail profile on Japanese store chain Cosmekitchen for CBM Magazine). I also visited most of the major art and design museums and galleries in the greater Tokyo area. Unlike last year’s visit, my first 2015 trip to Tokyo was culture-oriented rather than retail-focused.
In Seoul, however, I am making up for this: my visit here is all about brands, cosmetics and retail! Although this is my first trip to Korea I already know a good bit about the Korean beauty market and I’m familiar with many of the big retail brands. Korean cosmetics are popular across Asia and brands like Holika Holika, Tony Moly, Innisfree, Nature Republic, Skin Food, Etude House and Missha have a significant presence in East Asia and most of the South East Asian countries. Several of these brands also have retail boutiques in the US, by the way. And with the Korean hallyu blazing its triumphant path across the world, K-Beauty is only going to grow in importance.