Taking off: Indie K-beauty duty-free store aims to become bridge for small brands’ global expansion

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Korean firm All Grace Co Ltd recently opened the first multi-indie brand store at Incheon International Airport. ©Getty Images
Korean firm All Grace Co Ltd recently opened the first multi-indie brand store at Incheon International Airport. ©Getty Images

Related tags K-Beauty Korea Cosmetics Indie beauty

South Korean firm All Grace Co Ltd recently opened the first multi-indie brand store at Incheon International Airport and hopes to serve as a bridge for K-beauty SMEs to enter overseas markets, following sales that have “exceeded expectations”.

The K-Beauty Select Shop opened on March 8 and has been attracting attention from overseas travellers, with sales surpassing “billions of won” within three weeks.

In the shop, products are displayed based on category, instead of individual brands as typically seen in duty-free stores, making it “feel like Olive Young in a duty-free setting”.

“We are showing results that exceed expectations by achieving a sales breakeven point (BEP) in just three weeks after the official opening.

“The select shop is gaining huge popularity among global consumers, with international customers accounting for more than 80% of sales. We are expecting sales to reach KRW3 to 4bn (USD2.2m to 3m) this year,” ​All Grace stated.

Part of the success could be attributed to its “aggressive” joint marketing strategies involving top local beauty influencers, such as WITHNAMI and amming_j,  who have been engaged to visit and promote the store.

Currently, there are more than 100 brands stocked at K-Beauty Select Shop.

According to the firm, four to five new brands are expressing interest to enter the store on a daily basis, with more than 50 brands on the waiting list at the moment.

Going forward, All Grace and duty-free operator City Plus Co Ltd plan to cooperate more closely, sparing no effort to become a bridge for small and medium-sized indie K-beauty brands to advance into overseas markets.

All Grace also runs a five-storey cosmetic store called COSMALL, located in Seoul’s shopping district Myeongdong.

“For brands that sell well at All Grace select shops, we will be expanding into another duty-free store at Muan International Airport [in South Jeolla Province]. Additionally, we are preparing to open a second duty-free shop in the city.

“In the case of brands that have entered our duty-free store from April, we will support their exports to the US, Russia, Europe, and the Middle East markets.”

Appetite for overseas markets

All Grace’s target is set beyond duty-free stores in Korea.

“We are looking to strengthen our visibility and brand presence on the streets frequently visited by tourists, including Myeongdong, Gangnam, and Dongdaemun.

“However, our goal is not only to expand and open more duty-free shops in Korea, but also to set up All Grace select shops overseas within this year. We will do our best to support domestic indie brands in becoming mega brands,” ​said Kwak Seong-eun, director of All Grace.

Opened in February, the COSMALL multi-brand store has been a topic of discussion among industry players, with the key question being whether it could establish itself as a viable offline sales channel for small and medium-sized indie brands in a market “nearly monopolised” by beauty retail giant Olive Young​.

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