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South Korea’s beauty store network shrinks for first-ever time

The number of big-name retailers’ beauty stores in South Korea declined for the first time in 2020 as more customers turned to online shopping amid the coronavirus pandemic, data showed Friday.

The country’s three major health and beauty (H&B) chains — Olive Young, lalavla and LOHB’s — had a combined 1,484 outlets across the nation as of end-December last year, down 31 from a year earlier, according to the data posted on the electronic disclosure system of the Financial Supervisory Service.

Retail conglomerate CJ Group runs industry leader Olive Young, with Lotte Shopping Co. and GS Retail Co. operating LOHB’s and lalavla, respectively.

Lotte Shopping said it estimated the number of health and beauty shops in Asia’s fourth-largest economy based on data posted on their websites and business reports.

In a recent regulatory filing, Lotte Shopping said the number of LOHB’s outlets shrank to 101 in 2020 from 129 a year earlier.

GS Retail recently disclosed that the number of lalavla stores fell to 124 from 140 over the cited period. Lotte Shopping didn’t comment on the number of Olive Young shops.

Last year’s decrease contrasts with a steady increase in recent years. The number of such local shops rose to 1,515 in 2019 from 1,488 in 2018, 1,358 in 2017 and 1,014 in 2016.

But health and beauty chains were hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak last year, which prompted consumers to buy products online and caused those brands to downsize in a turnaround from their cutthroat competition to open more outlets.

In an example of consumers’ increased online shopping, Olive Young’s online sales jumped 62 percent in 2020 from a year earlier.

The drop in the number of such shops also comes as domestic and foreign cosmetics makers are increasingly joining hands with local portals to directly sell their products online instead of resorting to beauty stores, according to industry watchers.

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