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Pandemic batters South Korea’s K-beauty shops

The flagship store of the skincare and cosmetics brand Nature Republic in Seoul

South Korea is witnessing the shuttering of many cosmetics franchise stores due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.

South Korea has long been a popular hub for beauty fans from across Asia, especially since 2016 when the K-beauty boom turned the beauty business into a lucrative industry. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has all but eliminated international travel, caused a major hit to local beauty retailers, pushing them to the verge of collapse.

Relying heavily on the tourists from China, Japan and Southeast Asia, many cosmetics franchise stores are shutting down in the famous Myeong-dong shopping district. Despite the growth of e-commerce, sales generated from online channels are clearly not enough to cover the expensive rent of brick-and-mortar stores.

“With the absence of foreign tourists since March last year, nearly every other shop appears to be closed in Myeong-dong,” a Nature Republic official told The Korea Herald. “Some of our own stores, except the Myeong-dong World Branch, have been shut down temporarily ever since.”

Meanwhile, South Korean beauty conglomerate Amorepacific was struggling domestically even before the pandemic, which became an additional factor in falling sales.

“The number of our stores has been on the decline because of an industry-wide struggle as well as the challenges our company faces,” an Amorepacific official told The Korea Herald. “But the coronavirus pandemic made things drastically worse.”

Amorepacific closed 661 stores between late 2018 and last August.

Besides the drop in the number of tourists, the South Korea beauty industry is also affected as mask wearing became more common and cosmetics has become less central to women’s daily routines.

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