Smaller Korean Cosmetics Firms Storm the Citadel

      March 02, 2016 12:43

      Medium-sized Korean cosmetics company Tonymoly will open an outlet in the premium Sephora chain store in downtown Paris next month.

      Tonymoly will display 35 of its products at the chic boutique and is also selling its products at 825 Sephora stores in 15 European countries. The total order for products amounts to W10 billion (US$1=W1,238).

      Tonymoly has been gaining popularity both in Korea and abroad for its unique cosmetics, which are sold in cases shaped like pandas, bananas and lips. "European cosmetics are usually sold in generic cases, but many consumers prefer cute packaging," said Shin Joo-hee at Tonymoly.

      With rising brand awareness for Korean cosmetics, small players' overseas sales are rising.

      ◆ Small but Effective

      It's Skin, a subsidiary of Hanbul Cosmetics, is a success in China and elsewhere with a skin whitening product using the unusual ingredient of snail mucus.

      Chinese consumers posted rave reviews on Weibo in 2014 leading to a seven-fold rise in sales. Last year, It's Skin sold W309.6 billion worth of products, up 28 percent compared to 2014. It also started selling products in 12 DFS stores worldwide last month.

      Facial packs made by Sansung L&S went on sale in 2,200 Watsons chain stores in China in January of this year, the pitch being that it was developed by dermatologists.

      Other companies plumb for convenience. Touch in Sol developed a mascara that can be removed with only soap and water. The product started to sell at Sephora stores in the U.S. in February last year and was among the 13 most popular products there in October.

      Another company called Konad developed an easy-to-apply nail polish that can be stamped on and is exporting it to 127 countries. Exports account for half of Konad's revenues.

      ◆ Exporting Korean Beauty

      According to the Korea Cosmetic Association, Korea ranks No. 9 in the world in terms of cosmetics production. Last year, the country’s overall exports shrank 7.9 percent, but cosmetics shipments surged 53 percent to US$2.93 billion. The cosmetics trade surplus totaled $1.2 billion last year.

      And now giant Amore Pacific is no longer the only Korean cosmetics company causing ripples around the world.

      Experts say the quality of Korean cosmetics now rival those of major players, while the growing popularity of Korean pop culture is creating new demand abroad.

      "As the popularity of Korean dramas and music continues overseas, interest has risen in what kinds of cosmetics Korean celebrities use," said Yoon Soo-young at the LG Economic Research Institute said. "Cosmetics companies should develop new products using biotechnology and organic ingredients to appeal to more consumers." 

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