By Craig Patterson
South Korean ‘naturalism-oriented’ cosmetic brand Innisfree will open its first Canadian storefront this summer, utilizing a direct-to-consumer retail model that will add further competition in an already crowded market. Innisfree is the latest international brand to enter Canada, marking a trend that is seeing Canada continue to be a target for global brand expansions.
Construction hoarding went up last week at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre for Innisfree’s first Canadian location. The store will span almost 2,500 square feet on one level, according to lease plans, and will be located in Yorkdale’s Nordstrom-anchored expansion wing that opened in 2016.
At Yorkdale, Innisfree will be located across from Uniqlo and Muji’s large stores, and will be near other beauty and fragrance brands. L’Oreal-owned French fragrance brand Atelier Cologne will be located next to Innisfree with Israel-based Laline being one storefront over. Across from Laline is a newly rebranded location for ‘Nature Collection’, a VDL-owned Korean beauty chain that was formerly known as ‘The Face Shop’.
Innisfree partnered with brokerage CBRE for its Canadian stores expansion. Toronto and Vancouver are the initial target markets for Innisfree, with stores being ideally in the 1,800 to 3,000 square foot range in major malls as well as on high streets. The Yorkdale Innisfree lease deal was negotiated by Arlin Markowitz and Selina Tao. In Vancouver, CBRE’s Martin Moriarty and Mario Negris are handling negotiations in that part of the country as Innisfree prepares to enter British Columbia as well.
Innisfree operates hundreds of stores globally and is part of the Seoul-based AmorePacific Corporation, which features 33 health, beauty and personal brands under its corporate umbrella. AmorePacific launched the Innisfree brand in 2002 and it now has stores in Asia, Australia and it recently expanded into the United States where it currently operates seven stores. Its first US location opened in New York City in the fall of 2017 at 862 Broadway, just north of Union Square in Manhattan. A second store opened at the Garden State Plaza in New Jersey in July of 2018. Since September of 2018, Innisfree has opened five stores in the United States, with two more locations in the New York City area as well as two units in the Los Angeles area and one in San Francisco. More are expected as the brand rapidly expands into the North American market.
Innisfree’s slogan is “Clean Island, where clean nature and healthy beauty coexist happily,” and the brand is known to be eco-friendly. Particularly targeting women aged in their 20’s and 30’s, Innisfree is known for being South Korea’s first all-natural brand, with many of its ingredients being sourced from Jeju Island. Its products include a wide range of offerings for both women and men. That includes skin care, makeup, hair and body products, fragrances, beauty tools, and sun care.
About 80% of Innisfree’s ingredients are natural and the company says that its products are “plant-to-bottle”. The company also promotes its “green life” with activities such as reforestation efforts, recycling programs, and even an ‘eco-hankie’ to replace disposable paper products. The company donates 1% of its profits to eco-initiatives.
Its prices are aimed to be affordable, with many products ranging in the $20 to $30 range. The goal is to be accessible to a broad range of potential consumers, which will ultimately help Innisfree grow more rapidly than some pricier beauty brands.
Innisfree’s expansion comes at a time when other beauty retailers and brands are also entering the Canadian market and expanding their operations. US-based beauty behemoth Ulta Beauty recently announced that it would be expanding into the Canadian market by opening stores, which again will add competition to an already saturated beauty market. French beauty retailer Sephora continues to expand its Canadian operations by opening new stores and expanding others — in 2016 Sephora launched its “Toronto Takeover”. This initiative resulted in the region becoming one of Sephora’s top markets, with the retailer also seeing strong sales in other regions nationally.
At the same time, Shoppers Drug Mart continues to expand its ‘BeautyBoutique’ concept stores within its drug stores and recently, it began opening standalone units. Drug store chain Rexall has been expanding its in-store beauty brands as well which includes a roster of ‘prestige brands’ in some of its locations.
Department store chains such as Hudson’s Bay, Holt Renfrew, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue also offer expansive beauty halls in their stores. Hudson’s Bay has been expanding its brand offerings in its stores as competition heats up, and its parent company HBC launched the Saks Fifth Avenue banner in Canada in 2016 that saw two Saks stores open in Toronto, followed by a Calgary location in early 2018. Nordstrom entered Canada in 2014 and now has six stores with three in Toronto and one each in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, with all of them featuring large beauty departments.
Holt Renfrew has also been beefing up its beauty offerings by opening large concourse-level beauty halls in its flagship locations. Vancouver’s Holt Renfrew flagship saw a large new beauty hall open in the summer of 2017. This year, as well, Holts unveiled a new 12,000 square foot beauty floor at its 50 Bloor Street West flagship in Toronto and most recently, it unveiled an impressive 25,000 square foot beauty hall at its newly rebranded ‘Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’ flagship in downtown Montreal.
At the same time, Innisfree’s standalone direct-to-consumer retail model will seek to take market share away from other brands operating stores in Canada. In the past several years, numerous brands have opened stores in Canada using a mono-brand model, while at the same time also launching e-commerce websites. Brands such as Aesop, Urban Decay, Valmont and Benefit have all opened standalone locations in Canada, with Clinique opening its first store last year in suburban Vancouver.
Korean brand VDL, which opened its first standalone unit in North America on Toronto’s ‘West Queen West’ last summer, is rebranding its ‘The Face Shop’ units nationally to ‘Nature Collection’ as mentioned above. Canadian brands such as Deciem and Consonant Skincare have also been in expansion mode, with both seeing remarkable success despite growing competition.
Innisfree is the latest international brand to expand into Canada by opening its own stores. Over the past five years, more than 150 international brands opened stores in Canada with more than 50 of those being in 2017 alone. In 2018, more than 30 brands came into Canada utilizing a direct-to-consumer retail model, and this year could surpass that number as we continue to monitor the market.
Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre sees more first-to-market retail openings than any single place in Canada, with several other significant retail announcements to be made in the coming months, including several new luxury brands.
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd. Email Craig: firstname.lastname@example.org