An alley in the Myeong-dong shopping district in downtown Seoul is packed with low-priced cosmetics shops such as TheFaceShop, The Saem, and Tonymoly. Previously dominated by teens, the street now bustles with women in their 30s and 40s, mostly Chinese and Japanese tourists.
◆ Middle-Aged Customers
The low-priced cosmetics market has swollen from W3 billion (US$1=1,159) in 2002 to some W2 trillion this year, with more than 6,000 outlets nationwide. Fueling the tremendous growth are middle-aged women. Missha, the brand that kick-started the trend with products priced around W3,300 in 2000, has raised its target age from teens to 25-35 and the price of its flagship products to the W30,000 range. More than 35 percent of its customers are over 40, up from just 12 percent in 2004.
An insider with LG Household and Health Care, which acquired TheFaceShop early this year, said, "Shoppers in their 30s and 40s make up 55 percent of our customer base, and are responsible for 60 percent of sales. They spend twice as much as those in their teens and 20s."
◆ Heartthrob Models
The influx of older shoppers has changed the face of models for mass-market cosmetics brands, with male stars replacing female models. Tonymoly chose TV star Song Joong-ki as its new model through a customer survey. TheFaceShop picked singer and actor Kim Hyun-joong to draw shoppers in their 20s, and film actor Won Bin, the star of the blockbuster "The Man from Nowhere," for those in their 30s and 40s. After The Saem signed singer and actor Lee Seung-gi, female fans flocked to its shop in Myeong-dong and waited in a long line at a promotional event to receive posters adorned with his image.
The change in consumer tastes has also raised price tags in the industry. TheFaceShop sells 8,000 units per month of its flagship nutrient cream despite its high price of W68,000. "The stronger purchasing power and different tastes of customers in their 30s and 40s have caused a shift in the market," said a staffer at The Saem. "The marketing battle for those shoppers will likely get much fiercer down the road."