Young Shrug Off Worries, Outspend Their SeniorsThe generation of Koreans now in their 20s are most likely to be found in shops and stores, elbowing aside their elders to spend money. A department store survey suggests that the recent plunge in share prices and anxiety about the domestic economy are widespread among those 30 and up, making them more anxious about spending and more apt to put money away in savings.
Lotte Department Store, after surveying 3.5 million customers who used its Lotte Card during early half of this year, found out that purchases made by those in their 20s make up 327.5 billion won ($290 million) or 29.5 percent of total purchases, exceeding the buying by those in 30s for the first time.
"Persons in their 20s are usually either new in the wage-earning society or still receiving an allowance from their parents," said Shin Hun, the director of Lotte Department Store. "It seems like the economy doesn't matter very much to their consuming patterns."
As if to prove a point, the number of consumers in their 20s jumped from 28.3 percent to 35.3 percent since the beginning of the year at Lotte stores. Their total purchases rose from 23.9 percent to 29.4 percent.
During the 1980s, consumers in their 40s were the backbone of the consumer market. In the 1990s, shoppers in their 30s ruled the department stores.
But he number of shoppers in their 30s declined from 32.8 percent last year to 29.3 percent in first half of this year. Their total purchases declined from 31.3 percent to 29.1 percent.
A survey of 13 department stores shows that the number of shoppers in their 20s rose from 23 percent last year to 28 percent this year. Meanwhile, the number of shoppers in the 30s declined to 33 percent and their total purchases declined to 31 percent.
For Hyundai Department Store's COEX outlet, customers in their 20s increased from last year's 13.5 percent to 19.5 percent in the early part of this year. The portion of those in their 30s declined from 32 percent to 31 percent.
The strong consumption pattern for twenty-somethings is more evident outside Seoul. At the Pusan branch of Lotte Department Store, customers in their 20s made up 26 percent of the total purchasers in first half of this year alone, recording a 6-point increase over last year. Their purchasing total rose from 19.1 percent to 23 percent. A 1-point decline was recorded for consumers in their 30s.
"With rapid emergence of digital era, a new extended pattern for consumption is taking place, led by young generation in their 20s who will at the same time be the marketing target themselves," said Ban Ji-myung, the vice president of an association of chain stores.
"Nothing's changed yet," said Oh Young-sae of Lotte Department Store. "Our main customers are still those in their 30s. However, younger customers are catching up faster than we'd imagined. At this pace, they will catch up within two to three years."
Lotte is planning to increase the number of its stores to fit the taste of shoppers in their 20s, Mr. Oh added.
The main branch of Lotte Department Store increased the amount of space allocated to its Young Casual Store, which sells clothes those their 20s, by 24 square meters.. In the process, space was taken away from the clothes section for housewives.
The rapid stride of the twenty-somethings is also reflected in the home shopping business, a fairly recent phenomenon that began to boom with the introduction of cable television in Korea a few years ago. People in their 20s now make up 16 percent of the total number of customers, a 4-point increase since January, according to a survey conducted by CJ39 Shopping. There was no change recorded in the shopping pattern of those in their 30s.
"Last year it was those in 40s that recorded the big numbers," said Director Kim Jin-hyun of the shopping channel. "This year it was replaced by those in their 30s, but recently we have the 20s making a swift move."
by Kim Tae-jin