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Retail notes from Seoul: A new era of beauty retail [Boots, Chicor, Lalavla, Olive Young]

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!

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Retail notes from Seoul: Capital of beauty stores

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.

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Retail notes from Singapore: Masked beauty

One of my favourite Asian product categories is face masks and more precisely, foldable cloth masks. It is by far the popular mask format over here and virtually all the brands on sale are from Taiwan, Korea or Japan. Continue reading

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Retail notes from Singapore: Essence is in town!

For the last six years I’ve been regularly visiting Singapore. I go there once a year, usually for a month, staying with a friend of mine and taking brief side-trips into the other countries in the region. No matter which country I go to I always spend a lot of time in stores and shopping malls to check out retail trends (also, all of SEA is hot and humid and I like aircon!), and to simply enjoy the Asian mall experience. Continue reading

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