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Retail market scouting in Seoul

With a potential consumerbase of 20 million people in Seoul alone and a rapid economic development, the city is a great place to observe and get inspiration for the fast growing and changing retailmarket.


Every time I visit Seoul, lots of new shops has been built and old ones been teared down. The speed of the change is constant and the areas that are ”hot” keeps changing.

This time I was told that the area around Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil was the hottest area. Here you find global brands like Forever 21, Marimekko, Swarovski mixed together with local small retailers.

What is mostly striking is that almost every retailshop has its own very unique exterior design. Since the retail space in these areas often is situated in separate and not more than two or three floor buildings, they can use the whole building as a expression for their brand. And they most certainly do. It’s fun just to walk around and enjoy the architectural creativity. The fact that most stores closes at 22-23 gives it a extra fun experience.

During this businesstrip I also had the chance to visit IFC Mall, the first ”international-style shopping mall” with 40.000 square meters of retail floor space. H&M has 3.879 squaremeters in total here and Hollister has its first store in Korea here. Over 100 international brands is spread over three levels and also houses a nine-theater CGV complex, 35 new restaurants and the first Apple outlet (Frisbee) in southwest Seoul.

The most interesting thing with the newly built mall is that it shows a new retail trend in Korea where the retail is moving away from department stores and more towards shopping malls. The other malls in Korea are connected to department stores which get all the good stores, while the left over shops are then put in the mall. IFC Mall Seoul is not connected to a department store and their target audience is different and younger, aiming towards the office employees. Unlike Korean department stores which have no windows IFC Mall Seoul has been built with a glass pavilion aimed at showcasing natural light on all three lower level floors.To target foreign tourists, the mall offers tax returns and English services at the customer service centers and the information desk.

There is now doubt that the retail market in Korea will continue to change and develop in a rapid speed. The need for foreign brands and retailconcepts to create unique shopping experiences will continue to be vital for the market.

Susanne Fuglsang, Diamon Expert for South Korea