High-end foreign cosmetics brand SK-II recently introduced a skincare line for men in Korea, its first such foray in any country. The decision came after liquid essence for men, which hit local stores last October and costs W160,000 (US$1=1,120) a bottle, saw a month's worth of inventory sell out in just four days.
"Korea accounts for 40 percent of the world's high-end cosmetics market for men, and Korean men are often considered in the industry as test beds for new products," a sales associate of SK-II said.
Men are quickly forming the main ranks of cosmetics shoppers, with the domestic market for men's beauty products growing 15 percent each year. Industry watchers expect the market will surpass W1 trillion this year.
In Korea, concealers, products that minimize pores and whitening products have seen higher sales growth than basic skincare products such as lotions or skin conditioners among men. Meanwhile, domestic cosmetics brand Amore Pacific opened a make-up store for men in the trendy Hongik University area in northern Seoul and it attracts 300 customers a day on average.
The same holds true for apparel. Sales of women's clothing at Lotte Department Store nationwide fell 5 percent in January compared to a year earlier, but increased 7 percent over the same period for men's clothing. Shinsegae Department Store became the first retailer in the industry to open a section last year specializing only in men's fashion and sales have already risen 450 percent since it opened.
Domestic retailers say Korean men in their 20s and 30s have grown up watching popular men's dance groups since the late 1990s and are used to spending money on personal grooming. For example, many online shopping sites saw a surge in sales of men's undergarments that make the wearer look more muscular. Sales of body shaping or padded underwear rose 170 percent in February from one year earlier, according to popular online shopping mall 11st.