* This post was edited based on readers' comments and feedback. Edited parts are italicized.
If you're in beauty, it's hard to go a day without reading something related to K-Beauty. New Korean beauty products, new distribution, new pop ups like Glow Recipe's Glow Studio, new brands - there's always new news.
I think because of the PR "noise" many people assume the market is much bigger than it actually is. I believe brands in Korea also believe the opportunity is much bigger than it actually is and probably are sorely disappointed after entering that their sales are not immediately in the tens of millions of dollars.
So just how big is the Korean beauty market in the US? I'm going to make some assumptions and try to triangulate a market size.
- Amore Pacific is the biggest Korean manufacturer with US presence with three main brands - the namesake Amore Pacific brand, Laneige, and Sulhwasoo.
- Amore Pacific is estimated to have more than 35% of the US Korean beauty market according to a report by Kline Group. (Message me if you want to see this report)
- Kline Group also estimated that Amore Pacific, Tony Moly, belif, The Face Shop, and Dr. Jart+ combined made up 80% of the total Korean beauty market.
- Amore Pacific's 2016 North America sales were roughly ~$48MM (Canada + US) according to Amore Pacific's earnings release which you can find here.
Assuming that the Kline Group's Amore Pacific market share estimates are correct and, for the purposes of ease, let's just use the entire $48MM number from above even though it includes Canada. **This is a wholesale number which then needs to be multiplied by a factor of 1.5 -2 to represent retail sales which puts their NA retail sales at about $72MM - $96MM. This puts the size of the US K-Beauty retail market at roughly $205 - $275MM for 2016.
I'm not sure if this includes retailers like Memebox or Soko Glam, etc. But for the purposes of this exercise, let's assume not.
I estimated in a previous post that Memebox probably did around $22MM in 2016. Based on insight, I would say Soko Glam, Peach & Lily, and Glow Recipe combined did around $15-$20MM last year. For the most part, these retailers don't have much meaningful brand overlap and they also distribute to other retailers so those numbers should be reflected to some degree. Collabs like Target and Barneys with Peach & Lily and Ulta's foray into K-Beauty didn't start until 2017.
If you think I've missed some other big buckets, do leave me a comment below and let me know.
Using the assumptions above, I estimate the US market size for Korean beauty products at $242MM - $317MM dollars for 2016.
** Another reader has commented that this estimate does not include cross-border sales. Cross-border is when sales originate from other countries and are shipped into the purchaser's country. Amazon, eBay, and sites like Jolse or Yesstyle enable cross-border sales and sales of Korean beauty products from these sites into the US are not accounted for. If cross-border is accounted for the estimate could meaningfully increase.
I've been looking for the Korean cosmetic exports ($) to the US to see if this is remotely in the ballpark and found this analysis that pegs 2014 Korean exports of beauty products to the US at around $160MM - $170MM. Assuming pretty strong growth for 2015 and 2016, my estimate seems to still stand. (Usually there is a certain amount of goods sitting around in warehouses and my number represents only consumer consumption at point of sale.)
If you have any other information that would help inform this market sizing, send me a comment below.