K-beauty brands vow to defend against Sephora South Korea onslaught

South Korea’s big-name beauty retailers are prepared to defend their market share from the launch of Sephora South Korea, which debuts this week.

The first Sephora South Korea store will open in Parnas Mall in the upscale district of Gangnam in southern Seoul this Thursday, the company said. Spread across 547sqft, the store will feature hundreds of cosmetics, skin care, body and fragrance brands, along with its own private-label range.

Sephora, part of the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Group, has nearly 3000 stores worldwide. The company has begun an aggressive expansion program in Asia, opening stores in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and India.

Sephora South Korea plans to open six stores and an official online store by the end of next year, along with 13 more nationwide by 2022.

Sephora’s inroads comes as the country is already full of Sephora-like stores, which are mostly operated by the country’s major conglomerates.

Sales of beauty and drug products in the country came to US$4.74 billion last year, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International.

Olive Young, run by retail conglomerate CJ Group, is considered a market leader with nearly 1100 outlets across the country. The stores feature hundreds of budget- and mid-range beauty-and-lifestyle products.

Models posing with a new credit card affiliated with Chicor, a beauty multi-brand shop under  Shinsegae Group's wing. (image: Shinsegae Group)

Models posing with a new credit card affiliated with Chicor, a beauty multi-brand shop under Shinsegae Group’s wing. (Image: Shinsegae Group)

Local retail giant Shinsegae also launched its first multi-brand beauty shop Chicor inside one of its department stores in December 2016, which houses not only luxury brands but also bargain cosmetics.

The company currently has 22 such stores across the country and a flagship in Gangnam.


The outlets also have a place where customers can try out makeup products for free and issues a credit card that offers discounts and other perks.

“We were able to secure not only loyal but also potential customers by issuing a credit card that offers benefits, especially for those in their 20s and 30s who are hugely interested in beauty products and makeup,” said Lee Sung-hwan, a Shinsegae official.

The company says it has issued 90,000 Chicor credits cards in about a year.

Lotte Shopping Co, South Korea’s No. 2 retailer, also operates the drugstore LOHB, which sells mainly medical cosmetics. That chain opened a concept store in the Gangnam district last month that mainly targets customers in their 20s.

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