[HOT ITEM]For Many 20-Somethings, Casual Wear Shops Fit the BillKim Jong-hee, 22, is enjoying her cup of freshly brewed coffee, seated on a comfortable sofa. It's a typical Saturday afternoon, and beside her lies a computer with a spiffy LCD monitor that she uses to browse the Internet. But she is not in some luxurious Internet cafe － she is shopping at one of the busiest districts in Seoul, at the casual wear shop called Eigen Post, in Jongno. "It's so convenient," she said, "I can easily save time, doing shopping and going for a movie altogether within just a five-minute-walking distance."
This is not the typical style of downtown shopping in Seoul that you might expect. Usually, shopping in the downtown districts of Seoul, such as Dongdaemun, means a whole day, or night, of feet-torturing walking, along with a lot of tiring bargaining. But for Ms. Kim, who already made up her mind at home what to buy from visiting the Web site of the shop that showed the whole list of items with price, texture and pictures. "Moreover, I can get a 15-percent discount using my TTL card from SK Telecom since Eigen Post is run by the sister company, SK Global," Ms. Kim added.
Ms. Kim says that her wardrobe is full of pants, T-shirts, skirts and sneakers from three major casual wear brands － Giordano, Eigen Post and Who A.U. Among the three, Giordano was the pioneer of this market in the late-1990s. You can easily find their shops all over downtown Seoul, mostly huge buildings with plush interiors that also offer a variety of services such as free coffee and Internet surfing. Giordano first started in 1994 as a venture company; in 2000 alone, it sold more than 10 million T-shirts and pants, earning a net profit of 200 billion won ($153 million). Kim Jin-seok, a public relations manager for Giordano, said, "We are aiming for a net profit of 300 billion won this year, and we are very sure of being able to achieve the goal."
Mr. Kim believes that the success of the company lies in its low prices. Despite using the same material as Ralph Lauren, a much more up-market brand, Giordano's T-shirts do not cost more than 20,000 won, women's pants 30,000 won and jumpers 50,000 won. In October 1999, the Giordano store in Lotte Department Store in Jamsil set a record by selling 58 million won worth of goods in only one day.
Giordano became a role model for Eigen Post and Who A.U., both of which started business this year. Although the chains offer "reasonable" price ranges, they also try to present plush settings, far removed from cheap and cheesy discount stores. Park Hee-suk, an employee at Eigen Post said, "We tried to create a new shopping culture by providing a comfortable shopping experience for our customers."
This attempt has gone over well so far with trendy young people who don't mind dressing alike. You can visit their Web sites at www.giordano.com, www.whoau.com (English available) and www.eigenpost.com. If you are interested in what you see online, do not delay in getting to the store. When this reporter tried to buy a pink skirt appearing on the Web site and went to the store two days later, it was already sold out.
by Chun Su-jin