Korean fashion brands opt for less-is-more approach to offline shops
Many clothing brands are opting to shutter some of their stores and instead focus on upgrading their remaining locations with more interactive features.
This is a completely different strategy from the past, when brands would open as many stores as possible in order to reach more customers.
The newly renovated Zara store at the Lotte World Mall in Jamsil, southern Seoul, is one such example. The 3,190-square-meter (34,337-square-foot) store, which opened Friday, is the brand's fourth specially renovated location globally, following renovations of shops in Madrid, Dubai and Ginza, Japan.
Its store is located on both the first and second floors of the shopping mall.
Unlike previous stores that would display as many products as possible, here the wide space was selectively filled with clothes, bags and shoes chosen to be displayed based on specific themes. The “shoes & bag zone,” for example, resembled a high-end fashion boutique and had a chair for customers to sit on as they try on shoes — uncommon for most Zara stores. A separate cashier was located in the space for immediate purchases within that particular zone.
In the men’s section, on the second floor, there is a zone especially built for the functionality-focused Athleticz collection.
The Seoul location seemed to pay special attention to its fitting rooms, including the lighting and room backgrounds, taking into consideration how the younger generations often snap pictures after trying on different clothes in the fitting room.
In the women's fitting room located on the first floor, there was a special fitting room painted pink. The room’s theme is scheduled to change every six weeks.
Also on the first floor, customers can make use of a virtual makeup testing service that uses augmented reality (AR) technology. The AR filter allows customers to virtually try on cosmetic products.
Customers can also connect to the shop through Zara's mobile application. Among other functions, customers can find their location within the shop and line up for the fitting room, virtually.
Since 2012, Zara has been focusing on strengthening its online stores while expanding and renewing certain offline stores.
Zara was operating 42 stores in Korea in 2020, 41 stores last year and 35 this year.
Global athletic apparel brand Nike is also similarly focusing on directly managing their own stores with the direct-to-consumer strategy, which is when retailers sell their own product directly to its end customers, without the help of third-party wholesalers or retailers.
The brand’s total sales share of these directly managed stores increased to 38.7 percent in 2021 from 15 percent in 2010.
Nike is also shutting down its smaller stores while upgrading or opening larger stores. The Nike Rise Store that opened in Myedong-dong, central Seoul, in August last year is one example.
The Nike Rise Store is a unique shop designed to reflect the city’s own sports spirit. The Seoul location is the second globally.
The 2,300-square-meter store sells products and also allows customers to customize their own T-shirts. It also features a broadcasting booth where retailers can communicate with consumers online.
Last year, Zara’s online service provider in Korea, ITX Korea, recorded 141.1 billion won ($111.8 million) in sales, more than a 60 percent increase compared to sales before the pandemic hit, in 2019.
Brands are still far from choosing to close every offline shop, however. Customers still want those offline experiences, and brands can build up their image by providing offline experiences to their customers, leading to the trend of cutting small stores and diversifying larger ones.
BY YOO JI-YOEN [firstname.lastname@example.org]