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Korean brands ride the wave to Singapore

BOOMING BUSINESS: Korean brand Etude House has grown its retail outlets here from two in 2009 to 18. Its newest store (above) opened at Bedok Mall on Friday. A spokesman said that it has the Korean wave to thank for its popularity.


    Dec 09, 2013

    Korean brands ride the wave to Singapore

    THE Korean wave, or hallyu, has hit our tiny island. But it is not just teenyboppers who have been washed over by

    its allure.

    From cosmetics fronted by Korean heart-throbs to kimchi to mobile phones, South Korean products have been popping up across Singapore in recent years and have become increasingly popular.

    Etude House, for instance, has grown its line of retail outlets here from just two in 2009 to 18. Its newest store opened at Bedok Mall on Friday.

    A spokesman for Amorepacific Group, which manages the brand, said Etude House's turnover at its Singapore outlets has been increasing each year, and that it has the Korean wave to thank.

    Many Singaporeans chose the brand due to their strong interest in South Korean drama, music and beauty trends, she said.

    Public relations executive Ronda Lim, 23, believes that South Korean beauty products are affordable and more suitable for Asian skin, compared to Western cosmetic products.

    An avid user of South Korean cosmetic brands Etude House and Laneige, Ms Lim is also on the lookout for other South Korean beauty brands. "I am often tempted by new Korean products," she said, adding that she wants to see how effective they are.

    Shoppers are also greeted by an assortment of South Korean food products at supermarkets.

    FairPrice and Giant have said that they have increased their stock of South Korean food products, recognising the growing popularity of South Korean cuisine and pop culture.

    From having only 200 types of made-in-Korea products in its stores in 2008, FairPrice now has over 400 types, ranging from CJ steamed dumplings to Korean Miyamoto mandarin oranges. Some outlets even have shelves dedicated to South Korean products.

    The supermarket chain intends to expand its range, venturing into skincare products recently, said a spokesman.

    Giant expanded its range by 40 per cent from 2011 to last year.

    Fast-food chain KFC has jumped on the bandwagon, adding a South Korean touch to its menu with its Spicy Korean Box and Spicy Korean Crunch Meal.

    Retail experts point to a familiarity towards South Korean products - born from the influx of South Korean programmes on television - as a cause for the boom.

    "Korean brands tend to use Korean movie stars as spokesmen and consumers can relate to them after having seen them on TV," said Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail-management lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic. "It influences a consumer's psychology."

    Dr Lynda Wee, an adjunct associate professor in retailing at Nanyang Technological University's Nanyang Business School, said South Korea had also been repositioned as creative - not just a country that mass produces affordable products - due to brands like Samsung.

    Samsung overtook Apple to be the No. 1 smartphone brand in Singapore early this year, based on research firm IDC's data.

    "Now, when people think of South Korea, they think innovation, IT savviness," said Dr Wee.

    The Economic Development Board (EDB) has said that cumulative direct investment from South Korea has increased by 12.8 per cent from $3.67 billion in 2010 to $4.16 billion as of end-2011, making it the eighth-largest Asian investor here.

    There are now over 1,000 South Korean companies here in a wide variety of business segments, including food and beverage, electronics and consumer care. Many are using Singapore as a springboard to other emerging markets in the region.

    "Against this backdrop, many of these companies are locating regional headquarters and innovation activities in Singapore," said an EDB spokesman.