The health and beauty retailer reported that the accumulated sales of its Myeongdong stores from March 1 to 17 have more than doubled compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
It credited this boost to the return of Chinese tourists to its shores. “The number of foreign customers visiting the store is rapidly increasing as even Chinese tourists return to the Myeongdong commercial district.”
Myeongdong is one of the primary shopping districts in Seoul and a major tourist hotspot in the city.
During the same period last year at the same stores, tourist sales accounted for 12% of sales. This year it increased sixfold to 73%.
This coincided with the easing of travelling requirements for Chinese tourists flying to South Korea. From March 1, local authorities no longer required travellers from China to undergo an on-arrival PCR test.
The retailer’s data showed Chinese beauty consumers were now more interested in colour cosmetic products rather than facial masks – a product that has become synonymous with K-beauty over the past decade or more.
The trend of diversifying away from facial masks was seen across other demographics as well.
For instance, tourists from the US and the UK showed high interest in sun care products. On the other hand, South East Asians sought out in Korean skin care with anti-wrinkle functions.
Japanese consumers showed higher interest in hair care treatments as well as teeth whitening products.
Small brands win big
The company said tourists favoured lesser-known K-beauty brands, with nine out of the top 10 being small and medium-sized brands.
This was particularly pronounced with tourists from the UK and the US, which sought out brands with distinct Korean characteristics and used “mild ingredients”.
One such brand was Beauty of Joseon, which is currently the most mentioned K-beauty skin care brand on US social media, claimed Olive Young.
The top product from Beauty of Joseon was its sunscreen, which claims to contain 30% rice extract and grain fermented extracts.
The brand only launched in stores in the Myeongdong district last August and saw monthly sales increase by about 30%, reflecting foreign demand, said the firm.
Similar clean beauty brands like Torridon and Round Lab were also popular among UK and US tourists, with sales increasing more than 20 times over compared to the previous year.
Olive Young believes that tourist interest in smaller K-beauty brands has been spurred by the launch of its international e-commerce website in 2019 and was compounded by the lack of access over the past three years as international travel halted.
In 2022, the retailer said sales on Olive Young Global were showing strong growth. It highlighted the results of its mid-year sales, which took place between June 2 to 8, which saw orders increase by 125% compared to the same sales period last year.