updated 9 Mar 2014, 17:49
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Mon, Feb 24, 2014
Urban, The Straits Times
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Hallyu beauty storm
by Gladys Chung

The brand, which is fronted by Korean A-list actress Song Hye Kyo, had just one counter in Isetan Orchard in 2003. It is now available at 14 department store counters, five stand-alone boutiques and eight Sephora stores.

Administrative executive Phuah Zhi Ling, 41, says she first noticed Laneige because of the brand's dewy-skinned spokesman.

"Although I'm not a fan of K-dramas, I'm a fan of skincare. Song's complexion looks so good that I trust the brand."

Etude House - a mass brand targeted at women aged 18 to 30 - has laid claim to five-member boyband Shinee since 2011.

Says the brand's spokesman: "With their multiple albums and awards, Shinee is extremely popular with fans all over the world, especially in Asia. They are also recognised as fashion and beauty icons; plus all the members have good complexions."

She declined to reveal sales figures, but Etude House, which launched here in 2009, has the second most number of stand-alone shops out of all the Korean brands here. It is set to open its 19th store at Junction 8 next month.

On the popularity of Korean beauty brands, celebrity make-up artist Clarence Lee notes: "While fans of K-pop and K-drama would tend to sway towards the South Korean brands that their idols endorse, they would also generally have an affinity to all things made in South Korea.

"The South Korean brands are giving products made elsewhere a run for their money."


All this translates into big bucks for Korean beauty players.

South Korea's biggest cosmetics company Amorepacific Corp - which owns Laneige, Etude House, Innisfree and Sulwhasoo - reported that its sales in China last year totalled 338.7 billion South Korean won (S$400.6 million), a 29 per cent increase from 2012.

For the rest of Asia, its sales totalled 126.6 South Korean billion won, a 64 per cent increase from 2012.

Luxury brand Sulwhasoo, based on traditional Korean herbs and know-how, first entered the Singapore market at the Perfumes & Cosmetics stores in Changi Airport in 2010, before opening a counter in Tangs Orchard in 2012.

Since then, it has opened counters in Robinsons Orchard, Takashimaya Department Store and Tangs VivoCity. Its spokesman says sales figures have increased by more than three times since it launched.

Ms Stenifer Tan, the merchandising manager of Tangs Beauty, says the department store chose to stock Sulwhasoo when the beauty hall revamped in 2012 because it is the top premium skincare brand from South Korea.

"The appeal is definitely in part due to the K-wave or K-culture that's sweeping the globe at the moment, but aside from that, the real relevance and longer lasting appeal are that these are Asian brands, formulated for Asian skin types. Many feel these are more able to fulfil their beauty needs."

The strength of the South Korean beauty wave has intensified competition in the saturated beauty market here. In November, Japanese brand Fancl announced in a press release that due to continued losses, it would be closing its 33 stores in Singapore and Taiwan.

In a previous report on Fancl exiting the market, Mr Lee was quoted as saying: "There are so many Korean brands now and many of them are cheaper too."

Mr Afif Haddar, the general manager of Sephora South-east Asia, says he has noticed that Western brands are feeling the heat from their South Korean competitors.

"The South Koreans are known for their innovation in skincare. And I've noticed that the Western brands are doing more to match their own quality of products to the South Koreans."

Sephora currently carries Korean beauty brands Reskin, Laneige and, more recently, PureHeal's.


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