‘Golf poor’ on the links as high-end kit mania takes hold

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‘Golf poor’ on the links as high-end kit mania takes hold

Model poses with winter season golf wear at Lotte Department Store [LOTTE DEPARTMENT STORE]

Model poses with winter season golf wear at Lotte Department Store [LOTTE DEPARTMENT STORE]

Golf is one surprising pandemic winners, with people flocking to the links as tourism, leisure and sports businesses suffer.
 
Young people especially are finding joy on fairways and greens.  
 
Sales of golf related goods, from golf clubs to golf wear, have surged.  
 
Suh Soo-min, 30, earlier this month went shopping at a department store and purchased 600,000-won worth of golf wear, including a padded vest, heated shirt and a hat, before a round of golf.  
 
"For people around my age, golf is where we show off, so we tend to pick brands even if they are costly," Suh said. "As Covid-19 surged again, I have made plans to play golf in February next year instead of going overseas."
 
Golf related businesses face doldrums in the winter as few people are interested in swinging the irons and the woods on the cold courses.  
 
But this year, demand from pros and duffers alike has been driving up sales.  
 
"In November, golf wear sales when compared to a year ago have surged 61 percent," said a Shinsegae Department Store employee. "In the first 11 months of this year, purchases by customers in their 20s and 30s increased 65 percent year-on-year, and in November alone that figure was up 84 percent."
 
Lotte Department Store said sales of golf wear were up 37 percent last month compared to the year earlier period. Sales to those in their 30s jumped 59 percent, to those in the 40s 43 percent and to those in their 20s 37 percent.  
 
"New winter season products are sold immediately the moment they are stocked," said a Lotte Department Store employee speaking of golf related purchases. "The winter season carryovers from last year at outlets are mostly sold out in October."
 
Homeshopping channel CJ Onstyle has added golf wear shows this month as the products that were up for sale last month sold out on every show.  
 
A goose-down golf jacket that was aired on Dec. 5 sold out in just 30 minutes. Orders for about 5,700 jackets worth 700 million won were made.  
 
High-end brands are especially popular, with some in the fashion industry likening it to the so-called "backbone breaker" winter coats of 10 years ago, where there was huge demand for expensive, budget-busting winter coats among students.
 
LF, Samsung C&T and Kolon Industries FnC are strengthening their golf offerings targeted toward the so-called MZ generation, which includes millennials and generation Z. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1995, and generation Z includes those born between 1996 and 2005.  
 
At Shinsegae International, imported golf brand J.Lindeberg products have been selling well, while at FnC, imported G Fore is attracting buyers.  
 
Fila Korea, which is the majority shareholder of Acushnet Holdings, which owns Titleist and FootJoy, reports strong sales of its products.
 
"The MZ generation places importance on posting photos on social media, and as such they seem to buy one or two brands even if they are costly," said a FnC employee. "Usually winter is an off season, but this year, brands have been expanding their padding jacket lineups, which is boosting sales."
 
The company added that as it is targeting young people golf wear is becoming more diverse in style, including in terms of colors.  
 
Demand is so strong that the rise of a "golf poor" has been noted. These people are so obsessed with buying high-end gold products that they drive themselves to financial trouble.  
 
Golf brands are opening up stores thanks to the new found popularity.  
 
G Fore store newly opened at the luxury brand street in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam. [KOLON INDUSTRIES FNC]

G Fore store newly opened at the luxury brand street in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam. [KOLON INDUSTRIES FNC]

G Fore last month opened a store among the luxury brand stores in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul. J.Lindeberg in March opened its own store in Apgujeong, Seoul, not far from the G Fore store.   
 
"As golf is a costly sport, there seems to be little resistance from customers on price," said a fashion industry official. "Leading golf wear companies are trying to differentiate themselves through a high-end premium strategy."
 
According to the Korea Leisure Industry Institute, this year the number of golfers in Korea is estimated to be around 5.15 million. This is the first time that the golf population exceeded 5 million.  
 
The number of golfers in their 20s and 30s is estimated to have increased 35 percent on year 1.15 million.  
 
The golf wear market in 2020 is estimated to be worth around 5.1 trillion won, a 10 percent increase from 2019. That market is expected to expand to 6.3 trillion won in 2022.  
 
 

BY BAEK MIN-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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