A long way from Rodeo Drive

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A long way from Rodeo Drive

For clothing shoppers, the name Rodeo signifies one thing: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, the famous shopping district for the rich.
But in Seoul, “Rodeo” doesn’t quite mean what it used to.
In trendy Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul, Rodeo Street was launched in the early 1990s. Borrowing the cachet of its U.S. namesake, the district was (and is) full of shops that catered to young, affluent Koreans who wanted luxury brands and imports.
As Apgujeong-dong’s Rodeo became well-known as a leading shopping area, other residential areas such as Munjeong-dong and Mok-dong formed shopping areas full of discount outlets, and named them “Rodeo” to attract shoppers. These downscale Rodeo streets drew many middle-to-upper-class housewives lured by the discounts.
Now there are even Rodeos outside of the city, and they’re quite different from the one in Apgujeong ― not to mention the original in Beverly Hills.
Still, traces of poshness remain.
“I especially like to buy luxury brands such as Chanel and Gucci,” said Son Ji-hee, a Gangnam resident shopping at Jukjeon Rodeo in Yongin City, near Bundang, south of Seoul. “If you spend enough time walking around, you can find some good deals.”
Jukjeon Rodeo is a planned district of more than 300 shops, lining the Seongnam expressway. Started by private investors in the late 1990s, it took years for the area to start drawing customers in large numbers, said a member of the district’s shopowners’ association. It particularly draws customers from outside the central city.
Many customers drive to get there, and there is a lot of parking available in the area. Compared to the central city, the buildings aren’t so high and the streets aren’t so crowded.
“I realize how relaxing it is to shop without bumping into each other. The atmosphere is very different from Seoul,” said Kim Gyeong-ja, another Gangnam resident, shopping with her young daughter. “I can buy famous and pricey brands quite cheaply here,” Ms. Kim added.
Shops here sell domestic clothing and sports equipment as well as imported luxury brands. On a recent visit, most of the outlets were offering discounts from 30 percent to 70 percent; 50 percent was the most common. Shirts ranged from about 20,000 won ($17) to 50,000 won, jackets from 50,000 won to 120,000 won.
Old couples could be seen shopping for golf and hiking equipment, younger people for casual clothing. Many of the customers come there with families, and many of the shops sell brands that target middle-to-upper-class people with financial security. Customers came from Bundang, Jukjeon, Suwon, Gwangju and Gangnam.
The member of Jukjeon’s shop owners’ association said there would be more luxury outlets there soon, because more affluent customers from Gangnam and Bundang have been coming. In fact, there are tailors at Jukjeon that take care of alterations for shoppers who’ve found a good deal on something that’s not quite in their size.
Jukjeon can be reached by taking the Bundang subway line to Ori station and taking a cab or bus from there (about a five-minute ride).
Another Rodeo can be found in Ilsan, northwest of Seoul, near the Daewha subway station on line No. 3; as with Jukjeon Rodeo, Deogi Rodeo is a bit beyond the reach of the subway system, requiring a cab ride of about 2,000 won from the station. It was launched four or five years ago, when the government was promoting outlet malls and large-scale retailers across the country in the wake of the the financial crisis of 1997-98.
Business in the area just started booming in the past year or two, however. Retailers are optimistic. “In two or three years, the public transportation system here will be more extensive, as more development takes place around the area,” said Yeom Ki-cheol, a member of Deogi’s shopowners’ association.
Deogi Rodeo consists of about 300 shops selling clothes and accessories, for various age groups and at a variety of price levels. The market is getting bigger, and clothing retail has become more dominant; some other kinds of establishments, like restaurants and interior shops, have turned into clothing stores, said Mr. Kim.
Deogi Rodeo seems to be particularly well known for its luxury brands. “ I have been to other Rodeos. Deogi Rodeo seems to have more luxury brands than other Rodeos, even in Seoul,” said a shopper from Paju.
Still, the shops range from luxury down to budget brands, and as at other Rodeos, formalwear and sports equipment can also be found. During a recent visit, discounts were mostly around 50 percent, except at budget brand stores. Some “out of date” clothes, marked down by 70 to 90 percent, were selling well, thanks in part to their brand names, said a sales clerk at On and On, a women’s clothing brand. Shoppers came from Ilsan, Mokdong, Yeonsinnae, Paju and Geumchon.
Since the five-day workweek was launched, people have been stopping at Deogi to pick up clothes on the way to the countryside to spend the weekend, said Mr. Yeom of the shopowners’ association. But he says that hasn’t translated into more sales, because the state of the economy has people hesitating more before buying.

by Choi Sun-young, Han Ji-yeon
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