Korean Cosmetics Take Japan by Storm

      March 07, 2012 11:31

      Shinjuku Station in Tokyo was packed with people last Thursday even though it was long after the morning rush hour when Missha, the cheap Korean cosmetics brand, opened a store there.

      People rushed in the moment the sales assistants gave the signal. Within half an hour the shop ran out of the 100 jars of Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream priced at 3,480 yen (approximately W48,000), which it had prepared as giveaways. About 1,200 customers visited the shop on its opening day.

      A newly opened branch of Korean cosmetics brand Missha is packed with customers in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo last Thursday.

      The Shinjuku Station shopping mall alone is a battlefield for cosmetics brands. Global brands like L'Occitane, The Body Shop and DHC have stores there, and among Korean brands Missha joins Etude House and SkinFood.

      The Missha and Etude shops are strategically located in an area all passengers at Shinjuku Station must pass, and the station is so central that some 3 million people pass through in a day, with 80,000 of them just visiting the shopping mall.

      Korean cosmetics brands perform remarkably well in Japan. Missha Japan, which was established in 2005, saw sales increase from 296 million yen in 2006 to 1.98 billion last year, more than six times in six years. Missha Japan's vice president Kim Doo-kyum said, "Missha offers not just low-priced products for teenagers but also products that appeal to people of all age groups."

      People stand in line to get a look inside the Missha store in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo last Thursday.

      Etude, which opened its first brand shop in Japan last November, is also doing well. While Missha tries to attract customers of all age groups with its subdued, refined interior, Etude's shop is decorated like a doll house and uses images of its model boy band SHINee. It expects to achieve sales of about 400 million yen (W5.5 billion) this year. SkinFood has grown so rapidly that it now has 18 shops in Japan and earns 1.5 billion yen (W20.6 billion) annually.

      The main advantage of Korean cosmetics is that they are cheap. A 39-year-old woman in Shinjuku Station said, "Some time ago, I started buying Korean cosmetics because they're cheaper than Japanese brands and their quality is just as good."

      Customers shop at a branch of Etude House, another Korean low-cost cosmetics brand, in Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

      Their popularity also owes something to the appeal of beautiful Korean actresses and their use of natural ingredients like snails and ginseng. Last year, Missha earned 2 billion yen (W27.5 billion) from sales of Snail Cream, the largest revenue for a single product there.

      Korean cosmetics brands also give away free samples and provide extra services to customers, a culture that is otherwise lacking in Japan. "We have to pay even for small items, but Korean cosmetics shops give away many free samples," another customer said. "I like going to Korean cosmetics shops because even their temporary street vendors treat customers as well as they would in a department store."

      Other Korean brands such as Nature Republic and The Face Shop also plan to advance into the Japanese market or expand business there. Nature Republic has established a partnership with Japanese supermarket chain Circle K and is using actor Jang Keun-suk in an advertising campaign. The Face Shop plans to expand sales in collaboration with Aeon Mall.

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