Fashion fans say Aza flea market is the boutique of their dreamsA tea set with a pot in the shape of a snowman. A pair of 8-inch-high platform boots from Tokyo. Japanese style vintage jackets. Handsome reproduction antique chests. They are all at Aza Flea Market, a tiny shop hidden inside the COEX Convention Center.
Anyone in search of all things useful or just curious who visits Aza Flea Market is usually hooked within the first few minutes. All the store items are imported and sold at deeply discounted prices, mainly because they are second hand goods. To many bargain hunters, the Aza Flea Market, so named because it has products from A-to-Z, can save a trip to a weekend flea market abroad.
The first Aza Flea Market opened in June, 2002 on the second floor of the COEX convention center. The store was very small, under 90 square feet, but it was stocked with up to 10,000 items at a time, which was a good enough selection to attract a large number of customers.
Four years on, the owner, Na Sung-min, has opened another branch in Mokdong. With 10 employees, she says she has up to 800 regular customers who visit her stores almost every week. The company is still expanding: An ad on their Web site says they are seeking new employees who will be guaranteed overseas travel, mostly to Japan and Europe, at least five times a year.
Every week, Na and her staff members travel to various parts of the world, looking for treasures in flea markets. What’s really fun about the shop is that the stock changes every week. The number and variety of new arrivals differs, depending on what has been found in foreign flea markets that week. Fans of Aza say the best day of the week for shoppers is Tuesday or Wednesday, when shipments from the previous weekend are opened.
Over the years, Ms. Na and her staff have determined what makes the most popular items. Many customers are women in their 20s and 30s who display a strong preference for fashionable clothes, bags, shoes and other such accessories from Japan. They also seek out antiques and items for interior decorating from Europe, Canada and the United States.
Because many of the fashion items are high quality popular brands, such as Burberry and Gucci, or items that are extremely hard-to-find in Korea, the loyal customers of Aza Flea Market are usually convinced that their purchases have a uniqueness which makes them highly desirable. Small items like stickers or baby toys cost as little as 1,000 won, whereas some antique furniture costs as much as 1 million won. Clothes on average cost 30,000 to 40,000 won.
While the COEX store is cramped with too many things, the new branch in Mokdong, in the western end of Seoul, is four times larger and can display larger merchandise such as furniture. The enormous popularity of Aza Flea Market has led Ms. Na to open another shop at the COEX Mall in December. The company also operates an online mall where limited items from the store are on sale. For a small fee, the Web site can help members sell their own used items as well.
“Our ultimate goal is to develop a high quality flea market with profitable, reliable items. Korea’s flea market culture is still undeveloped, but we hope that will change soon,” Ms. Na said.
For more information, visit the Web site, www.azacom.com, or call 02-565-3325 (COEX) or 02-2649-3349 (Mokdong).
The Aza Flea Market is located at C-5 on the second floor of the COEX Convention Center. Get off at Samseong station, line No. 2, exit 5. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday except Sunday. For the Mokdong branch, take line No. 2 to Dangsan station, exit 2; transfer to bus 01 and get off at the Mokdong 1(il)-danji stop. It’s located at No. 113 on the first floor of Booyoung Green Town II. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday except Sunday.
The Aza Flea Market Mokdong branch, located in western Seoul. By Kang Uk-hyun
by Im sun-young