From a sea of nondescript stores pops out a princess-themed shop called Etude House, primped in shades of pink and filled with cosmetics wrapped in unabashedly girly packaging.
Originally from Korea, Etude—named after the three sets of solo piano studies by Frederic Chopin—arrived in the Philippines in 2009, bringing with it its famous BB (blemish balm) cream, which local makeup junkies snatched up very quickly.
Andrea Amado, Etude House (Phils.) president, said she instantly fell in love with the brand on a trip to Korea a few years back. “When I saw Etude, I said ‘How cute!’ It’s very attractive, and when you look at it from outside, it’s like it’s pulling you in. I wanted to buy a lot of things and it was just so easy to hoard,” said Ms. Amado, recalling how affordable she found the products.
‘The brand really got me excited and I think that’s really important for any business owner to have—that love and excitement for a brand you want to bring to your own country,” she noted.
Thanks to her husband’s Korean language skills, it only took a month for the pair to negotiate with Amore Pacific, the giant cosmetics manufacturing company that owns Etude. Two months after the contract-signing, the country’s first Etude House opened in SM Megamall, just in time for the Christmas shopping rush.
“It was difficult at first—the construction, permits, finding the right staff—but when we finally opened on December 20, it felt really good. People were coming in, some were just trying [the products] but many of them were buying, too,” recalled Ms. Amado.
From then on, Etude’s local franchise has opened 10 outlets in Metro Manila—including a flagship store at SM North EDSA’s The Block—as well as in Cebu, Iloilo, Pampanga, and Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Asked why the local Etude branches are not built like their dollhouse counterparts in Korea, Ms. Amado points to the tropical climate. “I think a dollhouse would be cute but it’s too hot here in the Philippines. If you don’t put it inside the mall, where would you put it? We just couldn’t find an ideal location for a dollhouse,” she explained.
From the ornate pink design and playful names, Etude House seems spot on for teenagers, but Ms. Amado found that most of their customers are, quite surprisingly, women in their 30s. “Teenagers’ purchasing power is limited to [Etude’s] lip gloss, compact powder, and nail polish. But they come to the store with their moms, who have a higher purchasing power. And they’re also attracted to the concept, which is great for us,” Ms. Amado said.
But Etude doesn’t only want to reach out to cosmetics fanatics, but to anyone looking for value-for-money skincare products. One customer had told Ms. Amado how impressed she was with Etude’s acne line, which she had bought for her son. “After two days, she saw results right away. She’s paid for more expensive treatments before, but Etude’s was effective and it cost her less.”
Testimonials like this give the venture a boost in the cosmetics circuit despite its unaggressive marketing drive. “People who love our product [tell] their friends and relatives about it, just word-of-mouth. And we’re very thankful for that, it’s a mutual love,” Ms. Amado noted. The timing of the shop’s local debut couldn’t have been better as Korean pop culture swept across the country.
Unsurprisingly, young K-pop fanatics comprise a bulk of Etude House’s loyal customers. A life-sized cutout of endorser Lee Min-ho, star of TV series Boys Over Flowers, is prominently displayed at stores’ entrance and has since become an attraction in itself. “He’s very popular as [his character] Jun Pyo, so girls want to take their pictures taken with his standee,” explained Ms. Amado. “We already had to change the standee in one store because it’s worn out. Girls want to hug it and all, but it’s good for [business].”
No one is certain when the Kpop craze would end but Ms. Amado is confident about Etude House’s place in the Philippines. “As long as there’s a girl out there who wants to stay pretty and feel good about herself, we’re here to stay.”
Raul L. Locsin Building I
95 Balete Drive Extension,
New Manila, Quezon City,
Extensions: 706, 709-711
Direct Line: (632)535-9923
Fax No.: (632)535-9925
Email: New Media Group