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참존화장품, 러시아에 수출할 계획

김광석 참존 회장
김광석 참존 회장
내년에 창립 30주년을 맞는 참존화장품은 신제품 참인셀의 성공에 힘입어 러시아에 수출할 계획을 진행 중에 있다고 참존 김광석 회장이 코리아헤럴드와의 인터뷰에서 밝혔다.

"주한 러시아 무역대표부의 미하일 본다렌코 대표가 참존화장품의 품질에 깊은 인상을 받아 러시아에 수출하자는 제안을 해 왔다"는 김회장은, 자서전 ’성공은 나눌수록 커진다’도 러시아어로 번역하여 학생들과 공직자들에게 귀감이 될 수 있도록 하자는 제안을 했다고 말했다. 

또, 싱가폴의 창이공항에 짓게 될 면세점에 한국의 대표적인 명품 브랜드 두 가지 중 하나로 참존화장품이 검토되고 있다고 밝혔다. 창이공항은 2017년에 새로운 터미널을 추가로 지을 예정이다.

참존화장품은 현재 중국, 일본, 미국, 대만, 태국, 캐나다, 체코 등 19개 국가에 수출되고 있다.

중국에서는 연간 백억원 정도의 매출을 올리고 있고, 일본에서는 주요 홈쇼핑채널인 QVC에서 두번째로 잘 팔리는 화장품 브랜드로 수년간 베스트셀러 상을 수상했다.

1991년 국내 화장품 회사로는 최초로 일본 후생성의 일본 내 판매 허가를 받아 그 품질을 인정받게 된 참존은 역시 국산 화장품으로는 최초로 세계 유명 화장품들과 나란히 90년대 중반 아시아나항공과 대한항공에 기내 면세품으로 채택되어 판매되는 등 큰 인기를 누렸다.

하지만 2000년대 들어서 온라인, 할인마트, 홈쇼핑 등으로 다양해진 시장에 적극 대응하지 않아 사업이 제자리걸음을 하게 되었고, 엎친 데 덮친 격으로 2004년 김 회장의 장남이 시작한 수입차 판매 사업이 고전을 면치 못해 2010년 최악의 상황을 맞기도 했다.

"판매경로가 다양해지면서 많은 화장품 회사들이 OEM 생산을 시작했다. OEM 생산은 품질이 떨어지게 마련이라 우리는 어쩌면 이게 우리에게 기회가 될 것이라 생각했다. 참존은 제조원과 판매원이 동일한데, 이러한 회사가 몇 없다는 것을 소비자들은 잘 모른다"고 김 회장은 말했다.

품질에 대한 고집으로 버틴 결과, 4년간 진화를 거듭한 참인셀이 2010년 탄생했고, 개당 40만원이라는 고가에도 불구하고 참존의 무료 스킨케어 서비스 등을 통해 제품을 경험해 본 고객들의 입소문을 타고 매출은 꾸준히 늘었다.

6년간 적자를 보던 아우디 딜러 사업도 3년 전부터 나아지기 시작했는데, 가장 큰 이유는 폭설이었다. 폭설에 강한 아우디의 후륜구동 시스템이 인기를 모으며 현재는 참존모터스에서 월 300대 이상을 팔고 있다.

"처음부터 반대했던 아들의 수입차 판매 사업 (참존모터스) 때문에 연쇄부도가 우려되었으나, 다행히 나와 오래 거래했던 은행들이 나를 보고 믿어주었다. 아우디의 성공으로 같은 폭스바겐 그룹 소속인 벤틀리와 람보르기니 딜러십도 따내게 되었다."

2000년 경매가 평당 천4백만원에 낙찰받은 대치동의 참존 본사 사옥의 땅값은 그 이후 열 배가 뛰었다.

하지만 참존그룹의 핵심사업은 영원히 화장품사업이 될 것이라고 김 회장은 말했다.

"남이 만든 물건을 파는 것과 제조업은 비교 자체가 불가능하다"고 그는 강조했다. (코리아헤럴드 김소현 기자)



<관련 영문 기사>

Charmzone ready to springboard into Russia

By Kim So-hyun



Skincare product maker Charmzone is eyeing Russia as its newest export destination on the recent success of its high-end cosmetics line that contains patented ingredients.

The 29-year-old company, which made headlines in 1991 for becoming the first Korean cosmetics firm to obtain approval from the Japanese government to sell its products in the neighboring country, has built a reputation for solid quality.

“Trade Representative of Russia in Korea Mikhail Bondarenko was so greatly impressed by our product quality that he proposed we export to Russia,” Charmzone chairman Kim Kwang-seok said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“He also suggested that we translate my memoir into Russian to inspire Russian students and public officials.”

Charmzone exports to China, where it sees about 10 billion won ($8.9 million) in annual sales, and 18 other countries including Japan, the U.S., Taiwan, Thailand, Canada and the Czech Republic.

It has been the second-best-selling cosmetic brand on Japan’s home shopping channel QVC for years.

“We are also being considered as one of Korea’s top two brands to open stores in the duty-free shop of the new terminal to be built at Singapore’s Changi Airport,” Kim said.

Terminal 4 of Changi Airport is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

Despite its unwavering devotion to quality and its “3S” strategy focused on samples, seminars and service, however, Charmzone’s business treaded water from 2000 as it failed to cope with the diversifying sales channels.

“We used to sell mostly through general cosmetics stores, but from 2000, the beauty market diversified to online, large discount stores and home shopping, and we didn’t keep pace with the change,” said the pharmacist-turned-entrepreneur.

“We saw a big problem with many of the companies that did. They chose OEM production, which compromises quality. Not many consumers know that Charmzone is one of the few cosmetics firms in Korea that does both manufacturing and distribution.”

As the company refused to jump on the bandwagon, its business tumbled to a low point in 2010, when Charmzone built its current headquarters building in Daechi-dong, southeastern Seoul.

The Audi dealership business that his eldest son had started in 2004 was losing money to the point that Kim worried about Charmzone going bankrupt as well.

“Thankfully, the banks that worked with me for long had trust in me. In 2010, we also managed to launch our ambitious high-end product line Charm In Cell, which we had worked on for years,” he said.

Sales of Charm In Cell cream, which contains the patented Tocovita C -- a combination of fat-soluble tocopherol and water-soluble vitamin C -- have continued to rise through word of mouth despite its high price of 400,000 won per bottle.

After struggling for six years, the Audi dealership business of Charmzone Motors also started to turn around.

“I had opposed my son’s import car dealership business plan from the beginning, but he was really determined and I eventually gave in,” Kim said.

“I regretted the decision until Audi sales picked up, interestingly, due to heavy snowfall in Korea over the past three winters. Audi’s rear-wheel-drive system worked well in snow, and now we are selling more than 300 vehicles per month.”

The Charmzone headquarters, located on the middle of a street full of import car dealerships, houses the nation’s largest Audi showroom that has all the Audi models on the first two floors, and a skin-care service facility on the basement level.

The value of the building site, which Charmzone bought in 2000 for the price of 14 million won per pyeong (3.3 square meters) in an auction after its previous owner went bankrupt, jumped by tenfold since.

“The success of Audi helped us win dealership rights for Bentley and Lamborghini (Charmzone Automotive run by Kim’s second son), which also belong to Volkswagen Group,” Kim said.

The core business of Charmzone Group, however, will always be cosmetics, which Kim has poured his heart into with steadfast principles, he said.

Apart from its hit TV commercial featuring a green frog in the 1990s, Charmzone doesn’t do advertisements. It relies instead on winning customers’ loyalty through samples, free skin-care service and “seminars” led by the chairman himself at the factory in Wonju, Gangwon Province.

Seventy-four-year-old Kim has guided some 250,000 visitors to the Wonju plant over the past 22 years.

“Superb products do PR, not commercials. People who have experienced our products become our loyal customers forever, and this is why, unlike other cosmetic firms, we don’t need to advertise,” he said.

“And I know this because I ran television and radio commercials for my pharmacy decades ago. People know your name for a while, but they forget it the moment you stop airing commercials.”

Kim founded Charmzone in 1984 based on his 20 years’ experience as a successful pharmacist.

He started mixing dermatologic products in the 1960s by chance to cure a type of scabies from Japan that spread in Korea after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Kim himself caught it at a public bath, and after trying all the ointments at his pharmacy in vain, he began mixing them and incidentally, one of the formulas worked.

This experience led him to study dermatology and develop external applications for skin diseases. His pharmacy named “Pi Bo” gained fame nationwide for dermatologic remedies through the 1970s.
(sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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