South Korean ‘naturalism-oriented’ cosmetic brand Innisfree is closing all of its Canadian stores and the company is blaming the COVID-19 pandemic. Innisfree opened its first Canadian store almost two years ago and plans were in place for a cross-Canada expansion.
“Circumstances have changed over the past year and we anticipate that the health and safety risks of COVID-19 will be impacting our ability to deliver the right experience for the remainder of 2021 and beyond,” said Innisfree in a statement on social media. “In that challenging context, we unfortunately had to make the difficult decision to close all Innisfree retail stores in Canada.”
Innisfree said its stores at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre and the Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto will both shut forever on May 8. The same statement noted that the CF Toronto Eaton Centre and CF Markville stores had already been shut. Ontario is currently in an extended retail lockdown until at least May 20.
The Yorkdale Innisfree location was the first in Canada when it opened in August of 2019. The CF Toronto Eaton Centre location came soon after as part of the beginning of a cross-Canada expansion that never came to fruition.
In 2020, Innisfree had planned to expand its Canadian operations by adding more stores to the Greater Toronto Area as well as markets including Vancouver. Brokers in CBRE’s Vancouver office had said that they were working with the brand on a multi-location expansion including at the Metropolis at Metrotown, and industry chatter noted that West Edmonton Mall was in line to possibly get a store as well. The mall-based expansion could have seen Innisfree open stores in most of Canada’s leading shopping centres coast-to-coast over the course of several years.
The pandemic took the wind out of the sails for many brands expanding in the Canadian market, and Innisfree is a surprising one to announce its Canadian exit. The beautiful bright Innisfree stores were often busy with customers seeking out the brand’s popular beauty products that quickly became highly coveted as they gained consumer awareness.
Innisfree announced in February that the brand would be available at Sephora stores in Canada as well as online. It hasn’t been confirmed if the announcement was made in anticipation of Innisfree shutting its own standalone stores. The standalone direct-to-consumer brand store model was a trend that picking up speed across the country prior to the pandemic.
Innisfree, which operates hundreds of stores globally, 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. The brand had several stores in the United States and had shut all of them by late 2020. The brand is carried at Sephora in the US according to Innisfree’s website.
Innisfree’s slogan is “Clean Island, where clean nature and healthy beauty coexist happily,” and the brand is known to be eco-friendly — something sought by many consumers lately. Particularly targeting women aged in their 20’s and 30’s, Innisfree is said to be South Korea’s first all-natural brand with many of its ingredients being sourced from Jeju Island. Its products include a wide range of products for both women and men including 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.
Prices are considered to be affordable with many products ranging in the $20 to $30 range.
Innisfree is the latest international retailer to pull out of the Canadian market, and the second beauty brand to shut since the start of the pandemic last year. We reported in November of 2020 that L’Oréal-owned NYX Cosmetics was also in the process of shutting its Canadian stores after entering the market in 2015. At the same time, we’re getting word from industry insiders that several new international brands will be entering the Canadian market by opening stores this year, and we’ll be reporting on several of these in the coming days.