To up footfall, department stores go all artsy
Koreans are now shopping for art at department stores, which are using the works as bait to lure customers back after the pandemic.
Lotte Department Store held its first Art Lotte exhibition “One Masterpiece” Tuesday. Some 60 works, including Lee Ufan’s “East Winds,” “Floating Drops” by Kim Tschang-yeul and Park Seo-bo’s “Ecriture” series, will be displayed. Visitors are free to enjoy the exhibit, and the works are available for purchase.
The exhibition will be held at Lotte's Avenuel Art Hall in Jamsil, southern Seoul, through July 25 and at Lotte Avenuel's main branch in Jung District, central Seoul through August 23.
Lotte Department Store has been showing art recently, including at an event called "Blue Room - The Great Habitat" that runs through November 28, but Art Lotte will be a regular feature and will allow customers to buy the works — before they could just look and photograph the art.
The company aims to hold the exhibition twice a year.
“Art is a new growth driver for department stores, one of the most important experiential factors that companies value,” said Hyun Jong-hyuk, head of the customer experience team at Lotte Department Store.
Many businesses were hit hard by the pandemic, but the business of art is one of the few that boomed. According to Seoul Auction, its 161th art auction held on June 22 had a winning bid total of 24.3 billion won, the highest since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Although art collecting was once known as the preserve of the rich and old people, more young Koreans have stepped in and widened the market. Of those using art joint ownership website Art n Guide, 25 percent were people in their 20s, 29 percent in their 30s and 37 percent in their 40s.
For department stores that experienced a decrease in visitor numbers due to Covid-19, merging popular art and shopping is an effective way to get customers in and increase sales.
In August last year, Shinsegae Department Store redesigned its third floor – the floor where luxury brands are located – into a gallery-esque venue. Paintings by abstract artist Kim Whan-ki and works by French photographer Elliot Erwitt’s were showcased.'
According to the company, many shoppers came to look at the paintings, with 28 artworks selling in the first month.
“After the third floor of the Gangnam branch was remodeled into a space for famous artworks, many customers have been expressing interest,” said Lim Hoon, manager of Shinsegae Department Store’s Gangnam branch. “We will do our best to offer unique shopping experiences for our customers.”
With more people coming in, sales of brands on the third floor from August last year to March increased 35 percent on year. Looking at the Gangnam branch as a whole, its sales last year rose 5.5 percent on-year.
Galleria Department Store partnered with local gallery Gana Art and started its Online Viewing Room (OVR) service in May. Park Jade Black VIP customers can access the OVR platform and receive consultations with art consultants at the VIP lounge if they wish to buy artworks.
Targeting to expand the market, the department also sold paintings by Francesco Bongiorni for some 160,000 won ($141) a piece in June. Although the paintings were also available for sale online, Galleria Department Store gave a 10 percent discount for customers who visited their venue, providing an incentive for shoppers to come to Galleria.
BY LEE TAE-HEE [email@example.com],BAEK MIN-JEONG