Cosmetics chains draw tourists in Seoul

Cosmetics chains draw tourists in Seoul
Innisfree Jeju House, a cosmetics store and organic cafe, opened in Samcheong-dong (above) last year. The district has seen some 10 large-scale cosmetics businesses open since 2011.

Seoul's Samcheong-dong and Garosugil, prized for their eclectic cafes and small fashion boutiques, are relatively unknown to shoppers from overseas. That may soon change.

Both are rising as the new hot spots in Seoul for foreign tourists, set to rival the current top district Myeong-dong.

Samcheong-dong, north of Myeong-dong, has seen some 10 large-scale cosmetics businesses open since 2011.

Innisfree Jeju House, a cosmetics store and organic cafe owned by beauty conglomerate AmorePacific, opened in Samcheong-dong last year.

The district also welcomed a new branch of British cosmetics brand Neal's Yard and the flagship store of make-up brand Moonshot, owned by South Korean management powerhouse YG Entertainment.

Garosugil, a shopping high street that stretches some 700m from Sinsa Station to Sinsa Middle School, is also seeing large cosmetics enterprises open stores in quick succession.

The district currently houses some 20 cosmetics stores, seven of which opened their doors as recently as last year.

Health and beauty retailer LOHB, owned by Lotte, ousted rival Olive Young from a building at the entrance to Garosugil. Olive Young was pushed to the first floor of adjacent building CJ Garosu Town, which is packed with other subsidiaries of CJ Corp.

Beauty empire AmorePacific has also targeted Garosugil, opening outlets for well-known cosmetics brands Espoir and Aritaum in February and December, respectively.

Conglomerate LG Household & Health Care will also open its first exclusive store for premium cosmetics brand Whoo, previously available only in department stores, in the area today.

The personal care and cosmetics producer already has stores in Garosugil for cosmetics brands SU:M37 and The Face Shop.

Foreign shoppers are the majority in both Samcheong-dong and Garosugil, staff at the shops said.

Staff from Garosugil's SU:M37 said Chinese tourists have accounted for 80 per cent of its sales since the store opened in September, and it continues to target foreign customers.

Officials of well-known cosmetics brand The Face Shop said foreign shoppers accounted for over 60 per cent of their sales, with about a third of all customers coming from China.

"Sales have quadrupled in the first quarter this year, due to foreign shoppers including those from China, since the same period last year," said a staff member at Olive Young in Garosugil.

But with large-scale fashion and cosmetics companies moving into the area, the smaller cafes and boutiques for which the district has been known are being pushed out of business.

"Large-scale enterprises tend to borrow whole buildings, which is preferred by landlords over smaller businesses that only rent single floors," said a coffee-house owner surnamed Kim.

Mr Kim, 37, was forced to move his business twice into alleyways due to soaring rentals, before being forced to pack it in altogether.

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