After a long 23 hours of traveling, I was finally able to explore the skin care shops of Myeongdong. I’ve read a lot about this place and can probably recall information on every single major brand that sells here and I’ve probably already been in their U.S. stores in Koreatowns from New York City to Los Angeles. But what I couldn’t tell you before I came to see this for myself is how do locals shop here and is it, for the most part, a tourist trap?
From my 3 hour night time visit I would have to say, yes, it is a tourist trap. What’s the giveaway? Well, in the way the stores package their products for sale. In each store I went to, every product was packaged in bulk. Packages of 6-12-20 or so units per package promising good prices if you buy in bulk. It was big red flag for me that this was not a place for the authentic Korean skin care shopping experience. For, what discerning consumer would buy in bulk before trying a product first? And even more so, Seoulistas are one of the most non-loyal skin care brand consumers. So, a Costco-style bulk buying business model wouldn’t work. Unless, of course, they weren’t selling to this consumer and instead, the typical foreigner after Korean skin care.
In the years I’ve been using Asian skin care, I know how we Asian women buy. We try it for free, test the crap out of it, then we haggle to death until we get what we want at the right price. But never too much, because we are always on the lookout for the next innovation. Furthermore, as I’ve been “living” the Seoul way, I noticed that people travel light. Taxis and private cars are hard to come by and most people use the subway (which is super clean and efficient btw so why wouldn’t they?). So, a bulk business model wouldn’t make sense here and that’s why I found the Myeondong experience more of a tourist trap rather than an authentic Korean skin care experience. Sure, the store keepers knew their products as I’m sure Seoulistas visit the stores here and have probably been trained by the brands to represent them this way. But, if you want the amazing dewy skin of a typical Korean (like the ones I’ve been riding the subway with, seeing at the grocery stores and overall not really walking around in Myeongdong), you would need to do more than just visit Myeongdong. So, that’s what I’m up to today. Going to well loved Korean skin care establishments like Shangpree and Sulwhasoo. I want to know how these brands sell before I head off to the K beauty expo. Stay tuned! 😉🇰🇷