Retail in Asia

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Cosmetics sales surge as Korean duty free market rockets


The Korean duty free market surged by 33.5% year-on-year in 2016 to KW12.2 trillion (US$10.5 billion), according to new figures from Korea Customs Service.

The results reflect a strong bounce-back from the MERS-ravaged 2015, allied to booming Chinese visitor numbers last year.

Chinese arrivals for 2016 rose +34.8% to 8,067,722, according to Korea Tourism Organization figures published today, a 46.8% share of total visitors. Japanese arrivals also rose sharply, up +25% to 2,297,893, a 13.3% share of total arrivals. Korean departures rose +15.9% in the year to 22,383,190

Duty free sales to foreigners (dominated by the Chinese followed by Japanese) rose +44.1% to KW8.8 trillion (US$7.5 billion)

SEE ALSO: South Korean cosmetics: The big winners in China

Cosmetics, driven by booming sales of skincare (particularly Korean brands), accounted for 51.2% of turnover. Here are the leading categories:


Lotte Duty Free stretched its lead as the dominant force, racking up a +26% increase in sales to KW5.973 trillion (US$5.1 billion), a stunning performance given that the retailer had to close down its Lotte World Tower Duty Free store in late June.

Lotte’s nearest rival, The Shilla Duty Free, posted a +31.5% increase year-on-year to KW3.405 trillion (US$2.9 billion). Its Seoul flagship generated revenues of KW1.739 trillion (US$1.49 billion) while its Incheon International Airport stores posted sales of KW0.697 trillion (US$596.7 million)

Fast-rising Shinsegae Duty Free posted sales of KW0.9608 trillion (US$822.4 million). Its new store in Myeong-dong, Seoul, which only opened on 1 May, generated sales of KW0.349 trillion (US$298.7 million). Its downtown Busan store (relocated in March to Centum City) posted revenues of KW0.336 trillion (US$287.8 million). Dongwha Duty Free in Seoul posted sales of KW0.3547 trillion (US$306 million)

Of the recent sector newcomers HDC Shilla generated sales of KW0.3971 trillion (US$340 million); Galleria 63 Duty Free reached KW0.224 trillion (US$191.7 million), Doota Duty Dree KW0.111 trillion (US$95 million) and SM (Hana Tour) KW0.056 trillion (US$47.9 million).