Pop-up stores start popping up all over Seoul

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Pop-up stores start popping up all over Seoul


Pop-up stores, which were a specialty of the Garosu-gil area in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, are opening elsewhere in the city to perk up consumer demand for various products. The Hongdae area in northern Seoul is an up-and-coming spot for companies to open pop-up, or temporary, stores to promote new brands and goods.

On a recent afternoon in Seogyo-dong, northern Seoul, a multibrand shop in the commercial area near Hongik University showed safety helmets, ladders and miniature fork-lifts. The items were related to Caterpillar, a casual shoe brand from the United States. The brand is known for its work boots.


Left to Rignt: Nespresso’s store highlights its new coffee machines, Aigle’s store focuses on its rain boots ahead of the summer monsoon season, Caterpillar’s store targets young men and women who like casual wear.

It was the first pop-up store opened by Caterpillar in Korea, and the brand decided to locate it in the Hongdae area, a popular hangout for hip, young consumers. The company thought that instead of opening in Garosu-gil, where most consumers are women in their 20s and 30s, a store in Hongdae would be a better fit for the brand’s image and appeal.

“The multibrand shop we chose is one that works with many unique foreign brands,” said Doh Young-woo, director of the sports business department at Sejung, the exclusive importer of Caterpillar. “We wanted to first increase the recognition of our brand with this shop’s customers, while at the same time make an appeal that our brand moves ahead [with the times].”

And Caterpillar isn’t alone.

Levi’s also recently opened a pop-up store in front of Hongik University, a week after it opened a pop-up store in Garosu-gil. The concept, however, was different. The store in Sinsa-dong was targeted to female consumers and promoted its line of women’s jeans called Revel.

The store that opened in Hongdae, however, was focused on introducing Cool Jeans, Levi’s summer line for both men and women.

“Until last year, we opened a pop-up store only in Garosu-gil,” said an official from Levi’s. “But for a store promoting Cool Jeans, we concluded that Hongdae would be a better place because the customers there are both young men and women.”


Levi’s store promotes its Cool Jeans for men and women, Pilsner Urquell’s store sells draft beer in Itaewon.

This was the first time the brand opened pop-up stores in different locations.

Cosmetics company Estee Lauder also opened a pop-up store for its latest lipsticks at a cafe in Hongdae. Until last year, the company opened a large-scale pop-up shop in Garosu-gil.

Normally, pop-up stores can last for as short as a day to as long as six months. On average, they open for one to four weeks.

“We picked Hongdae in line with our latest efforts to establish a younger and trendier image for our makeup products,” said an official from Estee Lauder. “Hongdae is a young neighborhood.”

Other locations in Seoul have also been used by companies to promote their latest products and brands.

In March, Pilsner Urquell, a beer brand from the Czech Republic, opened a pop-up store in Itaewon, central Seoul, a neighborhood where there are many places to enjoy craft beer. The store is currently open.


Some companies are opening pop-up stores inside another company’s branch if they share similar kinds of customers.

Earlier this month, Bosch, a German electronic goods company, opened a pop-up store inside Hanssem’s flagship store in Mok-dong, western Seoul.

Hanssem is a leading furniture manufacturer in Korea and Bosch decided to display and sell small electronic goods like toasters and vacuum cleaners.

Acuvue, a contact lens brand, also opened a pop-up store for its color lenses inside Olive Young’s Myeong-dong branch in central Seoul, where the main customer base is young women.

Foreign brands that have plans to enter the Korean market are also finding pop-up stores useful in raising brand recognition.

But many are choosing locations outside of Garosu-gil.

Ikea, the Sweden-based home furnishings company, opened a so-called story room - similar to a pop-up store but with items that aren’t for sale - in Garosu-gil until March ahead of the opening of its first store in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, in December.

Ikea is planning to open a second story room later this month in Times Square, a shopping mall in Yeongdeungpo, western Seoul.

Vilebrequin, a swimwear fashion brand based in France, plans on opening a pop-up store at Shilla Hotel’s outside pool area in June.

Although companies are diversifying the locations of their pop-up stores, Garosu-gil remains a prime destination.

In Garosu-gil, many pop-up stores for diverse brands opened last month, including Nespresso, Aigle, Outback and Hanyul.

Analysts note that the cost of opening stores in Garosu-gil is very high, which is pushing brands to alternate locations in the city. Garosu-gil is a very popular commercial area and there are very few places available for companies to promote their brands temporarily.

As an alternative, companies have turned to existing cafes and clothing stores, which also cost large amounts of money.

“We wanted to open a pop-up store in Garosu-gil, so we did some research,” said an official from a company in the beverage industry. “The places that we liked cost more than 25 million won [$24,387] per day, so we just had to give up. We are currently looking for other locations.”

An official from the retail industry said, “Besides the rental fee, it can cost several hundred million won in interior decorating costs.”

Despite the cost, many companies are finding pop-up stores good for their long-term businesses as they are able to study certain commercial areas and consumer patterns.

With more pop-up stores opening in the city, a company that introduces pop-up store locations to companies was also set up recently.

“We introduce pop-up store locations not only in Garosu-gil but also near Gangnam Station, Myeong-dong and Apgujeong-dong,” said Hong Se-min, head of Pop-up Book. “The cost varies. There are some locations offered conditionally for free while there are places that require rental fees of up to 18 million won.”

BY KOO HUI-LYUNG [angie@joongang.co.kr]
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